Audi continued their barnstorming performance at the Le Mans 24 Hours, taking the top three spot on the podium in the world's most famous motor race.

The event was won by Audi's Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro aboard the #8 Audi R8.

Australia's David Brabham earned the distinction of leading the race for the first time early in the event. Those leading laps were also the first for the Panoz manufacturer.

Teamed with Jan Magnussen and U.S. motorsport legend Mario Andretti, Brabham ran strongly until his car was badly delayed by oil leak and gearbox problems in the early hours of the French morning.

"Leading the race for the first time was a big thrill but unfortunately we didn't lead it long enough," Brabham said.

"We are certainly getting closer every year and getting much better as a team.

"We will have to look at the problems and find improvements for next year.

"In 2001 we will get to start with clean sheet of paper like Audi have this year. This race can certainly be frustrating." Brabham eventually finished in 16th place.

1998 24 hour winner Alan McNish/Laurent Aiello and Stephane Ortelli finished second ahead of ex-Grand Prix driver Michele Alboreto, Christian Abt and Rinaldo Capello.

Brabham's team-mates Hiroki Katoh, Johnny O'Connell and Pierre-Henri Raphanel fought off gearbox problems to finish in 5th.

Audi dominated both qualifying sessions with the McNish car starting from pole position for the 24 hour enduro.

The GTS class resulted in another win for the charging Dodge Viper GTS of regular Olivier Beretta and Karl Wendlinger with Dominque Dupuy joining with the GTS stars for Le Mans.

However, they were forced to fight off a strong challenge from the Chevrolet Corvette squad.

Victory in the GT division went to veteran Bob Wollek aboard a Porsche GT3-R he shared with Dirk Muller and Lucas Luhr.

Paul Ryan