Audi takes one-two win in worlds most important endurance race.
Ingolstadt/Le Mans, June 15, 2014 In front of nearly 300,000 spectators, Audi continued its unique string of victories in the Le Mans 24 Hours. In the 82nd running of the worlds most important endurance race, Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer (CH/D/F) and Lucas di Grassi/Marc Gené/Tom Kristensen (BR/E/DK) made for a one-two Audi victory.
It marked the 13th Le Mans success for the brand with the four rings in only 16 runs and may have been the most valuable one to date, as Audi Sport Team Joest prevailed against massive competition by Le Mans returnee Porsche and Toyota in an extremely tough race that was completely open for a long time. The decision in favor of the two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars was only made in the final phase.
Weve seen many exciting races and celebrated great victories at Le Mans but this success has a very special significance, said Professor Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, following the triumphant finish by the two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars. We didnt enter this race as favorites and in Porsche and Toyota had two very strong rivals. That we managed to win Le Mans again this time in spite of this is a fantastic achievement by the whole Audi squad. Were tremendously happy and my thanks go to all who have made this success possible.
For Audi, the Le Mans 24 Hours was billed as Welcome Challenges and there were plenty of them in the 82nd running of the famous endurance race for the brand with the four rings. Following a serious accident of Loïc Duval in Wednesdays free practice, Audi Sport Team Joest had to prepare the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro in record time again from scratch and to replace Loïc Duval with Marc Gené. That this team was on course for victory on Sunday morning says everything about the feat performed by the mechanics. However, in the end, the change of an injector and a turbocharger narrowly prevented this fairy tale from coming true. With a gap of three laps Lucas di Grassi, Marc Gené and Tom Kristensen took second place.
Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer took the lead for the first time on Sunday morning, shortly after 5 a.m., after having put consistent pressure throughout the night on the Toyota that had been leading for a long time. As the turbocharger had to be changed on their R18 as well, car #2 temporarily dropped to third place before moving back to the front in a remarkable recovery during which André Lotterer also set the fastest race lap of 3m 22.567s.Ferrari on the Hunaudières straight. The powertrain of the R18 was so heavily damaged in the incident that Marco Bonanomi was forced to retire after just an hour and a half.
In the hectic first hours, the fascinating Le Mans prototypes of Audi, Porsche and Toyota were fighting captivating duels on the Le Mans high-speed circuit that kept the spectators in awe. The fans experienced one of the most gripping races in Le Mans history until noon on Sunday. The decision in favor of Audi was only made in the penultimate hour.
It was a race of the kind you can only experience at Le Mans, said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. There were many incidents and none of the top cars made it across the distance without any problems. The decisive factors were that our Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars were able to drive consistently fast for 24 hours, our drivers made no mistakes and our squad responded properly and quickly to the issues that occurred. In Porsche and Toyota we had two really strong rivals who, as expected, did not make life easy for us.
I always believed that, in spite of the particularly difficult prerequisites for us this year, wed be able to succeed and that weve got the most efficient race car. That we succeeded again makes me feel proud. Thanks also from me to the whole squad, but to our Management Board and our Group as well that make it possible for us to demonstrate Vorsprung durch Technik at le Mans year after year. But I also express my respect for the performance delivered by Porsche on their return to Le Mans.
For Audi, this marked the 13th victory in the 24 Heures, the eighth one with TDI Power and the third one with a hybrid race car. The team of Reinhold Joest celebrated its 15th success in the worlds most important endurance race. Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer, after 2011 and 2012, achieved their third Le Mans triumph.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): This was no doubt one of the most thrilling and action-packed races at Le Mans. For us, it was also one of the most difficult ones and thats why, in my personal ranking of emotions, it takes one of the top spots. The whole week was a period of many highs and lows for us. And during the 24 hours every car was running in front at least once. In the first two thirds of the race, it was our rivals and in the final third we worked our way towards the front. This can only be achieved with a very special team performance. The combination of an efficient concept and a team of strong drivers, who extract the best from it that was the key to success.
Chris Reinke (Head of LMP): The initial concept for the new R18 was created two years ago and for the past nine months weve been intensively testing the car. To have reached the aim now, to have overcome all the hurdles and to be on top of the podium is obviously the greatest thing for all of us. Anyone whos watched the whole race can appreciate the amount of energy that had to be put into this effort. Im proud of the whole squad.
Ralf Jüttner (Team Director Audi Sport Team Joest): This was an exceptional race. Everybody was leading some of the time, pitted for repairs, some retired this race really offered a lot. And in the end, the best cars with the best drivers and the strongest teams won. Thank you very much guys! Everybody could see how hard they worked and how fast they prepared a completely new car. What nobody saw was the work they did in the past months, which was a whole lot more. All my thanks go to them.
Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): A brilliant race for us, but also one with many highs and lows for all the crews and manufacturers. The spectators saw a spectacular race in which the tables kept turning and that was unpredictable and thrilling through to the final hours. We were within striking distance for a long time, then led the race, and then lost ground again. In the end, fortune was on our side. Not only because of the perfect result but also because of the premiere according to the new regulations, Le Mans 2014 was a milestone for Audi.
André Lotterer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): This was a fantastic day for us following some very stressful weeks for the whole Audi squad. The race started well and the spectators saw a great battle between all three manufacturers. When an Audi retired, we chased Toyota as a duo. After our rivals had a problem, the way seemed to be clear. Then we had a problem. But our mechanics never lost their motivation and very quickly changed the turbocharger. They know Le Mans and what needs to be done.
Benoît Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): Im overjoyed after this incredible race. There was so much happening and lots of ups and downs. But our team spirit always remained intact. We all felt so sorry about the accident of car number 3. We subsequently took the lead until we had some problems. When car number 1 was running in front we were sure theyd make it. Its your turn to win the trophy for Audi, we said to them. When they got problems, Tom Kristensen said to us, Now its your turn. There was a nice, positive atmosphere between both driver squads throughout. Thank you to the whole team, to our engineer Leena (Gade) and to my fellow drivers.
Marc Gené (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): When I arrived at Le Mans I had victory in the LMP2 category in the back of my mind. But with all due respect: a podium place in the LMP1 class is obviously a lot more overwhelming. Everything came as such a surprise for me. And of course I also spent some thought on whether my performance was right. But Tom (Kristensen), Lucas (di Grassi) and the whole team gave me great help. Even victory would have been possible for us. But Im overjoyed with this result as well.
Lucas di Grassi (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): What a race! I cant recall when I last experienced such an exciting car race neither at Le Mans nor anywhere else. Our week with the accident of Loïc (Duval) got us off to a really bad start. The mechanics had to prepare a completely new car so that the qualifying session was just a rollout for us. Then we clearly led the race three hours before the end and the tables suddenly turned again. Even though were a bit saddened in the end: this is my second podium in my second Le Mans race, Audi has won and everybody has been rewarded for their hard work.
Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): This race was simply incredible and that goes for our whole squad. We arrived at Le Mans with a good car. Then we lost a car right at the beginning of the week and Loïc Duval retired. We had to change all our plans. Everybody was telling us that our car would no longer be in contention in the race. The guys prepared everything again from scratch overnight. Then we started the race with Marc Gené as our new team-mate. In the rain, it was a very turbulent beginning. Then we made up ground until an injector had to be changed at night. This was followed by a puncture and subsequently we were leading the race. Our advantage was huge. We just had to reach the finish but then we had a new problem. So we were back in third place but in the end finished in second. We can be proud of this. It was like in a fairy tale and they dont always have perfect endings. For Audi, on the other hand, the outcome of the race was perfect. This week, weve experienced the full range of emotions. Unbelievable!
Filipe Albuquerque (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3): Marco (Bonanomi) drove fantastically. That was a good foretaste of what would have been possible for our car today. Im sure that wed have been in contention at the front through to the very end. Its almost tragic: one minute everythings okay and in the next its all over. When the rain set in somebody hit Marco he had no chance. This is how tough Le Mans can be.
Marco Bonanomi (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3): I feel incredibly sorry, especially for my two team-mates and the whole squad. Everybody gave everything for success for a whole year during the preparation and now it was over for us so early. We had the potential to clinch a really good result. I had no chance in the accident. I drove slowly in the heavy rain in order to take no risk on slicks. The situation with the Toyota turned out okay but then the Ferrari drove into my car that meant the end of my race and unfortunately also for our Audi.
Oliver Jarvis (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3): Im incredibly disappointed. Not just for me but, most of all, for the whole squad. Many people only see these days here at Le Mans but preparations that last nearly a whole year are behind this event. Im sure that today wed have had a chance for victory too that makes the retirement through no fault of our own an especially bitter pill following such a strong performance by Marco (Bonanomi).