Le Mans, France -- The two Infineon Audi R8 cars completed a very tough night in the Le Mans 24 Hour race without significant difficulties. Last year's winners Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro extended their lead over the sister car...
Le Mans, France -- The two Infineon Audi R8 cars completed a very tough night in the Le Mans 24 Hour race without significant difficulties. Last year's winners Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro extended their lead over the sister car of Laurent Aiello, Rinaldo Capello and Christian Pescatori to three laps. The third-placed Bentley was already ten laps down as dawn broke.
The rain which was torrential at times and caused extremely difficult conditions stopped only after midnight. "There was so much water on the track that even on the straights we could only use half throttle and even that was still an adventure", explained Audi driver Rinaldo Capello.
The track, which dried only slowly, caused many retirements during the night and by half distance, only 28 out of 48 cars were still in contention. The Audi works drivers had big moments too: Laurent Aiello spun at the Mulsanne corner as did Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello on oil at the Dunlop corner. After his spin, Capello even slid into the gravel and lost nearly five minutes.
The entire rear part of the car had previously been changed on the Infineon Audi R8 with starting number two in a record time of less than six minutes as Laurent Aiello suffered from gearshift problems - possibly a consequence of him touching the barrier early in the race.
In these difficult conditions, Audi Sport Team Joest left nothing to chance at night. At midnight, both Infineon Audi R8 sports cars received two new sets of front and rear body parts with more downforce. In terms of tyre choice, the team went for a conservative option as well: whereas many opponents dared using slicks on the drying track early, the Audi drivers trusted their safe intermediate tyres in these conditions.
The 2001 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans ended for both Audi customer teams before midnight: Stefan Johansson retired his R8 in the third hour due to an electrical failure. Team Champion Racing was third until a clutch problem forced them out of the race after six and a half hours.