Audi, Corvette Triumph At Le Mans Le Mans, France - Mission accomplished for Audi and Corvette Racing. Diesel power has won at Le Mans after 74 years as Audi Sport Team Joest won the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday. Emanuele Pirro, Frank Biela ...
Audi, Corvette Triumph At Le Mans
Le Mans, France - Mission accomplished for Audi and Corvette Racing. Diesel power has won at Le Mans after 74 years as Audi Sport Team Joest won the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday. Emanuele Pirro, Frank Biela and Marco Werner drove a nearly flawless race for the second victory in as many races for the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI.
Shortly after Pirro took the checkered flag in the No. 8 Audi prototype, Oliver Gavin drove the No. 64 Corvette C6.R across the start/finish line to give himself, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen their third straight GT1 championship at the 24 Hours.
This marked the eighth straight year that American Le Mans Series teams won multiple class championships at Le Mans, solidifying its claim of being the premium brand of motorsport worldwide.
Biela, Pirro and Werner took the lead just shy of the three-hour mark and never gave it up the rest of the way. While the pole-sitting No. 7 sister car had problems ranging from a bad fuel filter and ECU to a faulty halfshaft, the winning car performed like, well, an Audi.
"This is an achievement of a large number of people," said Pirro, now a four-time winner at Le Mans. "There are so many people that pushed this car and this engine to Le Mans, then to a victory. There has been so much effort to make this project possible. I wanted to be part of it so badly when I was told about this adventure."
The whole aim of the Audi program was victory at Le Mans, the same result the German marque achieved five of the previous six years with the R8. The two new prototypes kept the pressure on the pursuing Pescarolos, which couldn't match the R10 TDIs on pace.
"I am absolutely overwhelmed. You've got to take your hat off to Audi again and again," said Werner, who won last year with Champion Racing. "The decision to enter the R10 TDI this year was ambitious but correct. Audi has done a tremendous job to get the car ready to race and ready to win in such a short time span. It is simply incredible: 200 days ago, the car stood on its wheels for the first time and now it has won the Le Mans 24 Hour race. This is more than history - it is a great story!"
The Audi R10 TDI also was victorious at Sebring in March, and the two cars will return to North America and the American Le Mans Series starting in mid-July at Salt Lake City's Miller Motorsports Park.
While the Audi R10 TDI won comfortably, it wasn't so easy for Corvette Racing. The No. 64 car and the No. 009 Aston Martin DBR9 of Pedro Lamy, Stephane Sarrazin and Stephane Ortelli battled closely throughout the race with the DBR9 holding the upper hand for a great portion. But just past 2 p.m. the 009 car pulled into the garage with clutch problems, handing the lead and victory to the Corvette, which finished fourth overall.
"It was a great race today," Gavin said. "We were pushing Aston Martin for those first 20-21 hours. Part of the strength of the Corvette and the Corvette Racing program is that it keeps going. It looked like the Aston Martins were going to be indestructible."
They weren't, however. While many other GT1 teams spent time in the pits for repairs and were involved in on-track incidents, the winning Corvette was perfect on its pits tops and limited its mistakes. The winning trio now has won four straight major endurance events - Le Mans and Petit Le Mans last year, and Sebring and Le Mans this year.
"We had a difficult moment during the night when Ollie hit an LMP car and we subsequently got some vibrations," Beretta said. "Then we had a refueling problem and all of a sudden we were almost a lap down. We then could sit back and give up, or push and see if the race could come back to us. We decided to push and a couple of hours from the end we started biting big chunks out of their lead. Then they hit problems and the race fell back our way."
The No. 007 Aston Martin of Tomas Enge, Darren Turner and Andrea Piccini finished second in class. The No. 009 Aston Martin was a fifth in class, followed by ACEMCO Motorsports' S7R and the No. 63 Corvette. C6.R, which had an eventful day. Among the repairs were a rebuilt gearbox, which cost the team more than hour.
In LMP2, Miracle Motorsports capped a dream week with a third-place class finish. The team of owner John Macaluso, Andy Lally and Ian James ran a steady race in their KUMHO-shod Courage C65-AER. The team and crew made few, if any, mistakes as the majority of the class ran into trouble.
"The podium was a very pleasant surprise for us," Macaluso said.
Intersport Racing finished fourth in class with its AER-powered Lola B05/40, just off the podium. The 2004 class champion at Le Mans and the defending American Le Mans Series P2 championship team battled problems early in the race - seven pit stops in the first hour and a wastegate change - and then watched as the team had to rebuild the gearbox.
In GT2, Flying Lizard Motorsports also overcame several issues to finish fourth in class, just missing the podium. The crew battled a number of problems including a broken electrical connection to the battery, which Set Neiman repaired with help from his radio. The team principal made the repair and brought the car back in.
"The crew did an excellent job at staying calm and talking me through a complex situation that they could not even see," said Neiman, who teamed with Johannes van Overbeek and Patrick Long. "It was unfortunate that we lost so much time, but I'm very proud of the fact that we were able to get the car back on track and finish so well in the race."
The Petersen/White Lightning Porsche and the Panoz Esperante GTLM from Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz retired from the race during the night.