AUDI WINS IN THE WET AT LE MANS! Audi and diesel power won again at the 24 Hours Le Mans as Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner teamed for their second straight victory Sunday in the world's greatest auto race. It...
AUDI WINS IN THE WET AT LE MANS!
Audi and diesel power won again at the 24 Hours Le Mans as Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner teamed for their second straight victory Sunday in the world's greatest auto race. It was a history-making event that featured the first diesel battle between Audi and Peugeot, a classic battle in GT1 and a downpour in the final two hours.
A soaked Werner crossed the finish line with his arms raised and rain pouring as the R10 TDI remained perfect in endurance contests. It won at Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans last year and has won again at Sebring and the 75th Le Mans in 2007. The Audi finished 10 laps ahead of the factory Peugeot driven by Sebastien Bourdais, Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy.
Pirro and Biela each took their fifth overall victories at Le Mans while Werner earned his third straight. American Le Mans Series teams now have won seven overall championships since 1999.
"Le Mans is always very, very difficult," Biela said. "The most recent result is always the sweetest one. Every single time I get to come here is an honor. If you win it's even more special. I definitely want to come back and do this again next year and many more times."
Werner, Biela and Pirro were on their own in the final nine hours as the last of three Audis entered. The No. 3 Audi with Mike Rockenfeller at the wheel crashed and retired in the second hour after heavy contact at Tertre Rouge. But even more shocking was Dindo Capello's off in the 16th hour while leading by two laps. A broken left-rear wheel sent him flying into the gravel at Indianapolis Corner to end a race where the No. 2 Audi had dominated since the start.
So it was understandable that Audi wasn't taking anything for granted until the checkered flag. This year's race was particularly brutal with 25 retirements out of 54 starters.
"This is the best race in the world, and one of the hardest and most difficult," Werner said. "I didn't expect this at midnight. But Le Mans is Le Mans. Our crew did very good work and we needed that support."
"I am very satisfied with victory," said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport. "The competition was very, very strong and there was never a moment to relax. The wrecks and not being able to bring the cars back is something that has never happened to us. We can be proud that Audi diesel technology rules on road as it does on the track."
In GT1, Aston Martin won at Le Mans for the first time in nearly 50 years as David Brabham, Darren Turner and Rickard Rydell finally knocked off Corvette Racing by a lap for a much-anticipated victory. The trio ran trouble-free throughout as they each claimed their first Le Mans victory.
"It was very, very difficult," said Brabham, who finally won at Le Mans in his 14th start. "I had tears in my eyes the last lap. This place just does something to me that I can't explain."
The winning car actually ran second for much of the race's middle part. Turner led early following a pit stop, and the No. 009 crew capitalized on the misfortune of its sister car when Johnny Herbert pitted to repair damage to the car's splitter and mounting brackets just past the 15-hour mark.
The Corvette trio of Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen was the factory's only entry to finish after the No. 64 of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Max Papis retired with a broken propshaft at the two- hour mark. Fellows was closing on Brabham in the final two hours before a safety car period with 50 minutes left. The track went green again with just 10 minutes left and cemented the win for Aston.
"Visibility was terrible and there were lots of puddles, but we were trying to make up time without hitting anything," Fellows said. "It was a real challenge. I'm not too happy about when that safety car came out, but that's history."
Porsche returned to the top of the podium in GT2 with a victory IMSA Performance and the trio of Raymond Narac, Richard Lietz and American Porsche factory driver Patrick Long. The trio ran a conservative pace and outlasted entries from Ferrari, Panoz and Spyker.
It was the second career Le Mans win for Long and third podium in four tries as the IMSA Porsche finished six laps ahead of the Risi Competizione/Krohn Racing Ferrari F430 GT of Nic Jonsson, Tracy Krohn and Colin Braun.
In LMP2, New Hampshire-based Binnie Motorsports won a battle of attrition for its first Le Mans win. Team owner Bill Binnie, Allen Timpany and Chris Buncombe finished well ahead of the factory Zytek of Adrian Fernandez, Haruki Kurosawa and Robbie Kerr.
There was a bit of suspense as the Binnie car wouldn't start in the garage with 10 minutes left after water leaked onto the car's ECU. There was no reason to panic as the engine fired a couple of minutes later.
Fernandez in the Zytek qualified on the P2 pole in his debut race at Le Mans. The car was running as high as eighth overall and leading in class at the sixth hour before mechanical and electrical misfortunes arose.
"The whole experience has been just fantastic," said Fernandez, who raced at Le Mans to prepare for what he hopes is an entry next year for Acura and Lowe's Fernandez Racing. "In our first visit here to start on pole and finish second is just tremendous and I have to thank Lowe's for giving us this opportunity. Everything we learned here is going to be extremely beneficial for the future. The experience of Le Mans is completely different from anything else and, with the schedule the week of the race, it is definitely not easy on anyone."
Round Six of the American Le Mans Series is the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix, set for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 7 at Lime Rock Park. CBS Sports will televise the race at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 8. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.