Audi dominated the Le Mans 24 Hours with a near flag-to-flag victory in the 75th running of the event. Although the win was convincing it came at the cost of two of the three Audi cars that crashed out during the race, leaving the sole #1 Audi Sport Team North America R10 TDI to fight at the front for the final few hours.
"I think this is the most difficult win we have had here so far," said Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, Audi Sport Competition Manager, "There was a lot of competition from Peugeot, and also Pescarolo who did a great job the whole race and over the weekend, and there was pressure on us from the beginning right to the end so we couldnt lose a second without thinking what that meant for us."
Peugeot initially started from pole position, with Sebastien Bourdais leading the field away on the opening lap in the #8 car, but quickly fell back as Audi slowly applied pressure and within the opening hour the Audis occupied the first three places.
Luhr handed over the #3 Team Joest Audi to Mike Rockenfeller, who crashed at Tetre Rouge and heavily damaged the rear of the car and the circuit barrier. Rockenfeller was okay but the car was not able to continue and the Safety Car was deployed for a lengthy period while the barrier was repaired.
A brief rain shower followed, as did another Safety Car period, and once the confusion ended the #1 Audi had dropped down to fifth behind the #8 and #7 Peugeots and the #16 Pescarolo Sport Judd 01, which had benefited from strong tactics and good work in the pits.
Peugeot suffered their first major mechanical problem during the fifth hour when Sarrazin pitted the #8 car with smoke coming from the right rear of the car. The team worked on the car and it was able to rejoin back in eighth position, and this handed second position to the #1 Audi.
The leading Audis then increased the pressure and slowly moved away from the Peugeots. This continued all through the night, with a particularly strong stint from Allan McNish in the #2 car, and by the morning the two Audi cars were comfortably ahead.
McNish handed over to Capello, but on lap 263 the left-rear wheel became detached from the car at Indianapolis and sent Capello spinning across the circuit into the tyre barrier on the inside of the circuit. Capello was able to climb out of the car and walked away unaided, but the car was soon retired from the race.
Peugeot suffered another problem with a couple of hours to go when the #7 car made an unexpected stop and was pushed into the garage for considerable work to the back of the car, and this allowed the #8 Peugeot up to second place. The car returned to the track but then went straight back to the garage again and ultimately into retirement.
Pescarolo put in a very strong performance to finish third with the #16 Pescarolo Sport Judd 01 of Emmanuel Collard, Jean-Christophe Boullion and Romain Dumas. The car had a brief incident when it was pitched into a spin and touched the barrier, but the high attrition rate in the class meant that the car was able to recover to a high position.
Rollcentre achieved a well-deserved fourth place in the race. The #18 Pescarolo-Judd 01 driven by Martin Short, Joao Barbosa and Stuart Hall had a very strong drive, running consistently in the top ten, and slowly moved up the field as others retired.
The rest of the runners were not so fortunate and there were a large number of problems experienced amongst the remaining LMP1 runners.
The #17 Pescarolo Sport Judd 01 pitted at the start of the eighth hour with a suspected oil leak and the car remained in the garage for a long time. The #5 Swiss Spirit Lola-Audi B07-10 driven by Marcel Fassler, Jean-Denis Deletraz and Iradj Alexander-David retired from the race due to an electrical problem having run as high as seventh early in the race,
The #9 Creation Autosportif Ltd Judd CA07 had an incident packed race. The car stopped out on the circuit early in the race at the hands of Jamie Campbell-Walter, then Felipe Ortiz went off at the Playstation Chicane and damaged the rear of the car, and then Shinji Nakano went off the circuit at the Porsche Curves and again damaged the rear of the car.
The #19 Team Chamberlain - Synergy Lola-AER B0610 driven by Bob Berridge, Gareth Evans and Peter Owen picked up a left rear puncture at the start of the race and lost time due to damage to bodywork. The team then suffered a refuelling problem, a cooling problem and an oil leak.
Torrential rain towards the end of the race all around the circuit forced the Safety Car to be deployed for an hour, before the cars were released to race for the last ten minutes.