Starting from pole position the nr1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro made Le Mans history by becoming the first hybrid car to win the 24 Heures du Mans. Andre Lotterer took the chequered flag after 378 laps to retain the title he won with Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler last year and also secured maximum points for both the manufacturers and drivers titles in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
240,000 people travelled for the 80th edition of the world’s greatest endurance race and were treated to a classic race that was action packed from start to finish. The main challenge to the nr1 Audi came from the second hybrid Audi driven by Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello but also from the two Toyota TS030 hybrids, which ran comfortably in the top three and led for some of the race. However a big accident destroyed the nr8 Toyota driven by Anthony Davidson and the second Toyota eventually retired with engine failure in the 11th hour.
With the Toyotas out of the frame it was a straight fight between the four Audis but which Audi would be on the top step of the podium? The nr3 Audi Ultra had problems when Romain Dumas went off at the first chicane and destroyed the front of the car. The Frenchman managed to get the car back to the pit for repairs. Then Marc Gene did exactly the same thing at the same corner on Sunday morning and this effectively dropped them out of contention.
The two hybrid Audis were evenly matched and the result was certainly not clear cut until McNish in the nr2 car went off at Porsche Curves and had to spend six minutes in the pits while the damaged parts were replaced. However a safety car was deployed so he only lost 1 lap to the nr1 car. This was how the result looked at the end of 24 hours, with the nr4 Audi R18 Ultra in 3rd place, which isn’t entered for the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The private team’s LMP1 battle was dominated by the Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyotas with the nr12 Lola of Nicolas Prost, Neel Jani and Nick Heidfeld triumphing at the end of the grueling race and finishing 4th overall at the flag. The nr 13 Rebellion Lola of Harold Primat, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Andrea Belicchi ran a close second to the sister car until a problem forced the car into the garage dropping it back to 3rd. The nr22 JRM HPD-Honda was a distance 2nd and the Strakka Racing HPD came back out at the end after also spending a lot of time in the garage.
The LMP2 class was won by the nr44 Starworks Motorsport HPD-Honda with Enzo Potolicchio and Ryan Dalziel adding a second class victory to the one they scored in Sebring and give the team a strong advantage in the LMP2 FIA Endurance Trophy. Tom Kimber-Smith, who replaced Stephane Sarrazin in the team for this race, scored his second Le Mans victory in consecutive seasons. The nr49 Pecom Racing Oreca Nissan of Pierre Kaffer, Soheil Ayari and Luis Perez-Companc were the second WEC car in LMP2, while the nr 41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan scored a bumper 30 championship points for third for the British team.
The LMGTE Pro category turned into a classic Ferrari versus Aston Martin battle with the nr51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander holding off the challenge of the nr59 Luxury Racing Ferrari of Frederic Makowiecki, Jaime Melo and Dominik Farnbacher and the nr97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 of Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Adrian Fernandez. The Luxury Racing Ferrari had a long pitstop towards the end of the race, dropping the car down two laps but still 1 lap ahead of the Aston Martin.
The LMGTE Am class was equally close with the nr50 Larbre Competition Chevrolet Corvette of Pedro Lamy, Julien Canal and Patrick Bornhauser have a very close battle with the nr67 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche. This battle continued for a couple of hours before the Corvette got the upper hand. The second WEC car in the LMGTE Am class to cross the line was the nr57 Krohn Racing Ferrari of Tracey Krohn, Niclas Jonsson and Michele Rugolo.
The next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship is the 6 Hours of Silverstone on the 26th August before the championship heads to South America for the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo three weeks later.
Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): "This was an incredible race. There were so many highs and low - especially for me. I had a great team. The mechanics gave everything after the accident to repair the car as quickly as possible. As always, my driver colleagues did a fantastic job too. For Audi, this is a great day. Clinching not just victory but a one-two result with the new technology of the e-tron quattro is a brilliant feat."
André Lotterer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): "The new Audi R18 e-tron quattro is very strong and gave us a lot of confidence. It’s brilliant to have won yet again! That’s an incredibly nice feeling. It was a really strenuous race. A year ago, we were battling against Peugeot and this year against Toyota at the beginning of the race. Unfortunately, our rival retired. But we contested a very fierce race against car number ‘2’ in our team as well. Audi Sport allowed all of us to give everything. It was real racing, and in your own team that’s particularly interesting. Last year, we were running against Peugeot by ourselves after two major accidents. This year, the trust among the entire squad has grown even further. Competing with Audi continues to be very special."
Benoît Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): "It was a very tough race because traffic on track was particularly heavy this year. You had to be extremely careful not to leave the racing line while lapping as the track was extremely slippery there. There were a number of critical maneuvers. In the morning hours, we had a thrilling and fair duel with our ‘sister car.’ The duel between the two Audi R18 e-tron quattro impressively proved the potential of the hybrid car. I’m happy to be on the top spot of the podium again."
Dindo Capello (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): "Up until the accident it was a great race. When it happened we were in contention for victory. As we could see last year, you’ve got to take risks if you want to win. Without those risks, Audi wouldn’t have won at that time. That’s why we took risks this year too. The result is a bit disappointing for the whole team and especially for Allan (McNish). As a racer, I know how he’s feeling at the moment. Tom (Kristensen) and I know that something like that can happen to any driver anytime, especially when you’re battling for victory. Here at Le Mans, you can’t afford to give away even a tenth of a second anymore. Sometimes it works out and at others it doesn’t. For us, it didn’t work out this time. But next time we’ll have better luck again."
Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): "The race gave me a lot of pleasure because it offered everything. I particularly enjoyed the three stints at night. I was supposed to drive as fast as possible and complete twelve laps with each fuel tank filling. I managed this every time. Especially in the morning when we’d made up a lot of time and even taken the lead we were very confident. I’m sad that I wasn’t able to battle with André (Lotterer) for victory anymore on the final laps. But I’m even sadder about the fact that Dindo (Capello) didn’t win on his last run at Le Mans. He would have deserved it. We gave everything for that. ‘Well done’ to car number ‘1.’ They did a great job and deserve this success as well. Audi’s performance and reliability are impressive when you look at the challenges to be mastered in the race. At Le Mans, you’ve got to expect anything at any time."
Allan McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): "I’m devastated. I’m sorry for our team: Dindo, Tom, the engineers and the mechanics. They did a perfect job throughout the race. Despite a few problems we were in contention for victory up to my accident. I caught a slower GT vehicle in the Porsche corners and expected the driver to stay on the right-hand side. But he didn’t. I haven’t got a clue why. I spun and crashed into the guard rail with the right front. That damaged the front bodywork and the suspension - the necessary repair cost us two laps. That was a very, very big disappointment."
Enzo Potolicchio, nr44 Starworks Motorsports HPD ARX 03b-Honda (1st LMP2): “This is an amazing result. We run in Grand Am, in United-States, that to me doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Last October, we decided to do something else while having dinner together and we ended up in the WEC. We won at Sebring and we now win at Le Mans. I’ve watched these two races on TV for so long and it’s a great feeling to win at these fabulous circuits.”
Tom Kimber-Smith, nr44 Starworks Motorsports HPD ARX 03b-Honda (1st LMP2): “I would like to thank Enzo, Ryan and Peter Baron. We followed our plan. I won last year with a Zytek and I now win with a Honda. For me, a fast and winning car is just perfect. Any winning car is perfect.”
Ryan Dalziel, nr44 Starworks Motorsports HPD ARX 03b-Honda (1st LMP2): "At Sebring we had a brand new car and we won. At Spa, we had to do some work on the car but the Honda Performance Development chassis is perfect. We haven't got the pace of the Oreca chassis but we could do triple stints. I think that was the key to our success."
“A clean car is generally the car which ends up in victory lane. Our car has got a couple of batters and bruises on it but HPD have built a really strong chassis. We had a couple of small, strange things go wrong during the race – the ECU fell into the tub, for example, but they were small things and nothing that anyone could see from the outside.”
Giancarlo Fisichella, nr51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia (1st LMGTE Pro): “It’s been a fantastic race, amazing. It didn’t start very well on Wednesday when I crashed the car. Fortunately we changed the chassis and it was bad. The mechanics did a fantastic job and build a new car in less than ten hours and it was great to get out in the last 20 minutes of qualifying on Thursday. I have to say thank you very much to them, to AF Corse and Amato Ferrari because without them we couldn’t win this race.
“I’ve won a few races in Formula One but this is a great victory and it’s very special. Winning this race was my dream and it came true. Thank you too to Gianmaria and Toni – they are professional drivers who did a fantastic job. All together we had a great season already last year and now this year.”
Toni Vilander, nr51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia (1st LMGTE Pro): “As Giancarlo said we had some issues in practice but we never lost the faith. We knew when the team put the new car together we’d have the speed. Last year we were very close and came second in the end after leading by one lap with six hours to go. This year we believed we could win from the beginning but it was a nerve-wracking last few hours as it feels like they’ll never end. The team did a very special job in the preparation – taking 10 hours instead of two weeks – and then it was our job to finish it and we did it in the right way. I enjoyed the race a lot. The start was interesting to see how a 24 hour race can be like a one hour sprint. Drivers were going for positions from the green flag or start of the race and I’m happy with the weather. I don’t really enjoy driving at night with the bad weather so overall it was a good Saturday and Sunday.”
Gianmaria Bruni, nr51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia (1st LMGTE Pro): “Obviously it’s a great feeling, especially like Giancarlo and Toni have said, last year we were so close and we missed it. This year we knew we could win the race, even when something happened like it did in free practice and we didn’t run at all with our car. We were a bit down, for sure, but we knew we were all together as a team and we could win. We have a very good package. To win this race means everything; it’s my second time but I hope to be up here more and more and still doing a good job. I’m happy for Ferrari and the factory. We’ve worked so hard from last year with testing and everything and it’s great we’re able to take this trophy back to Maranello.”