"British" Audi Claims Top Results at Le Mans Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx recorded second and fifth positions in the 72nd Le Mans 24 Hours which finished today (13 June). The Jamie Davies/Johnny Herbert/Guy Smith Audi started from pole-position...
"British" Audi Claims Top Results at Le Mans
Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx recorded second and fifth positions in the 72nd Le Mans 24 Hours which finished today (13 June). The Jamie Davies/Johnny Herbert/Guy Smith Audi started from pole-position with the similar Frank Biela/Pierre Kaffer/Allan McNish R8 completing an all-Veloqx Audi front row.
The two Michelin-shod Veloqx Audis dominated the opening stages with Davies only briefly losing the lead to McNish during two scheduled pit-stops. But shortly before two hours, with Davies 25secs ahead, McNish skated off on oil at the high-speed Porsche Curves.
Allan, stunned by the heavy impact with the barriers, miraculously nursed his severely damaged Audi back to the pits after it had been dragged back on to the circuit by a recovery vehicle. Incredibly, seconds after McNish's accident, the closely following American-entered Audi skated off at the same corner. This car would finish third.
Back at the pits, McNish was immediately examined by doctors from Audi before being taken to the circuit's Medical Centre for a precautionary check-up. Although suffering no injuries and declared physically fit, he was advised by race officials not to take any further part in the race unlike his Audi which, after magnificent work by the crew, resumed in 46th position after two pit-stops, accounting for 75mins.
The Davies/Herbert/Smith Audi continued at the front of the field but lost time after nine hours with a stop-go penalty moments before making contact with a slower car necessitating an unscheduled, precautionary pit-stop.
For the first time, with the race 15hr 09mins old, Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx lost the lead when a 7min pit-stop was required to cure a handling imbalance on the lead #88 Veloqx Audi caused by a seized rear suspension pushrod bearing. Davies resumed over a lap down in second place, but immediately set a series of fastest laps in the race.
With three hours to run, the Davies/Herbert/Smith Veloqx Audi had narrowed the gap to 90secs, and with just two hours remaining it was less than one minute. With 30mins to run, Herbert now at the wheel, had sliced the gap down to 35secs. Johnny, pushing to earn Veloqx Audi a famous victory ran wide, and briefly into a gravel trap, such was his determination to claim the first-ever victory achieved by three British drivers.
But after 24 hours of hard racing which saw 3,204-miles clocked-up (379 laps) and covered at an average speed of almost 133mph, just 41.354secs separated the winning Japanese Audi of Seiji Ara/Rinaldo Capello/Tom Kristensen and the Davies/Herbert/Smith Veloqx Audi.
The #8 Biela/Kaffer/McNish car amazingly recovered to ultimately take fifth place - 29 laps off the winner's lap. The Canon & Infineon supported "British" Audi team, formed just six months ago, won the Sebring 12 Hours (ALMS) and Monza 1,000km (LMES) races earlier this year. The team will exhibit an Audi R8, a sportscar which has now won the Le Mans 24 Hours four time in the past five years, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (25-27 Jun) and continues its bid for honours in the LMES at the Nurburgring on 3 July.
Audi R8 - #8 (Qualified -- 2nd, McNish 3:33.233; Result -- 5th, 350 laps)
Frank Biela (D). Age: 39. Born: Neuss, Germany. Lives: Monte Carlo, Monaco:
Stint 1: 2131-0006. Stint 2: 0242-0544. Stint 3: 0848-1111. Stint 4: 1426-1600. (9hr 34m)
"Allan's incident was a great shame for us - he had no chance to avoid an accident. It made the job more difficult with just two drivers sharing the car for 21 hours. I do not feel anymore tired than in previous years although it has been physically tougher. I made two unscheduled stops after flat-spotting tyres and to replace a broken rear wheel."
Pierre Kaffer (D). Age 27. Born: Bad-Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany. Lives: Burgbrohl, D:
Stint 1: 1908-2131. Stint 2: 0006-0242. Stint 3: 0544-0848. Stint 4: 1111-1426. (11hr 18s)
"I had some spins but for me to drive for over 11 hours and to finish second on my Le Mans debut is a fairytale although now I feel really, really tired. The Le Mans experience has been incredible - the track is so unbelievably fast, the atmosphere is like nothing I have ever felt at a motor race and the massive crowd is so colourful and noisy."
Allan McNish (GB). Age: 34. Born: Dumfries, Scotland. Lives: Monte Carlo, Monaco:
Stint 1: 1600-1804 (2hr 4min).
"I slid off on oil at the Porsche Curves at high speed resulting in big damage to the car. It was a heavy impact which dazed me and having visited the medical centre, I was advised not to continue by race officials despite being given a clean bill of health by doctors. I'm extremely disappointed, my Audi was very competitive."
Audi R8 - #88 (Qualified -- 1st, Herbert 3:32.838; Result -- 2nd, 379 laps, +41.354. Fastest lap -- Davies 3:34.364, 141.81mph @ 0742)
Jamie Davies (GB). Age 30. Born / Lives: Charlton Adam nr Yeovil, England:
Stint 1: 1600-1806. Stint 2: 0019-0228. Stint 3: 0705-0841. Stint 4: 1140-1401. (8hr 12m)
"I lost time with a stop-go penalty for passing under a yellow caution flag and lost further time when I had to make an unscheduled pit-stop to check for damage after a brush with a GTS car. I also had the distraction of something lose in the footwell hitting my ankles on a couple of stints. But I'm absolutely thrilled - for myself and the Veloqx team."
Johnny Herbert (GB). Age 39. Born: Brentwood, England. Lives: Monte Carlo, Monaco:
Stint 1: 2026-0019. Stint 2: 0449-0705. Stint 3: 0841-1010. Stint 4: 1401-1600. (9hr 37m)
"Having finished second for the last two years I was determined to add to my 1991 win. For much of the race it was looking good and we had a one lap lead but the handling deteriorated and we fell in to the clutches of the Japanese Audi. It's frustrating but that's motorsport - one day the luck goes with you and sometimes it doesn't."
Guy Smith (GB). Age 28. Born / Lives: Beverley, England:
Stint 1: 1806-2026 Stint 2: 0228-0449. Stint 3: 1010-1140. (6hr 11m)
"Last year's victory was very straightforward compared to this event where we were forced to battle hard - there was no let up and there was always pressure. Comparing it to my 2003 victory, it is a little disappointing but we gave it our best shot - we didn't ease up once as you could when Johnny went in to the gravel in the closing stages."
Sam Li, Team Principal:
"Our drivers and team tried and worked very hard - every single one of them - and we very nearly pulled off the victory. We have a fantastic partner in Audi and of course Michelin for our first sports prototype campaign at Le Mans. To have led for over 15 hours and then to finish second by just 41 seconds makes it a rather strange feeling."
David Ingram, Audi UK Motorsport Manager:
"It's an absolutely fantastic feeling. I've been told to finish Le Mans is a victory in itself so for Audi UK to finish second and fifth on only its second appearance in arguably the world's greatest motor race. The drivers and entire team have all done a wonderful job. I'm really, really proud of what we have achieved against colossal odds."