For five long years Audi was the underdog of endurance racing. When rivals Peugeot first arrived in 2007 they shattered the German marque’s lap times and fought them tooth and nail at Le Mans. Though that only materialized for the French once, they still beat Audi at the majority of support races and almost always over the course of a single lap.
So when Peugeot announced suddenly that they would not return in 2012 to continue the fantastic battle, there was a huge sigh of regret from sportscar racing’s fans, and a little breathe of relief from Ingolstadt. Le Mans 2012 looked like it was theirs.
Not that they were successful—crashing both cars fairly early on—but on the timesheets they were right amongst Audi’s armada of diesel and hybrid R18’s. The competition looked good. At Sao Paulo, in the team’s third race, they won. They led the next round at Bahrain before retiring, and finished the season with the final two race wins in Fuji and Shanghai.
So while Audi did get their easiest Le Mans win since 2007, it doesn’t look like they’ll get that same comfort ever again. Toyota will return, and will contest the overall victory. Thanks to them, sportscar fans have LMP1 racing again, and Audi has no relief.