LM24: Audi outlasts Porsche & Toyota to score 13th win
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They weren't the fastest, nor did they crush the opposition from start to finish as we've come to expect, but when it was time to cross the start/finish line for the final time at the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans, experience won the day for Audi's No. 2 R18 e-tron quattro as their counterparts went faster but ultimately faltered.
Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer became 3-time winners at Le Mans—their third overall win in four years—when the No. 7 Toyota, No. 20 Porsche, and the sister No. 1 Audi tumbled from the lead in succession.
Audi's No. 2 was followed home by the brand-new No. 1 Audi that was built this week after the primary car was destroyed in a crash on Wednesday. The No. 1 also had a shot at the win, but blinked when a 23-minute turbocharger change was required. The No. 2 would also require a turbo change, taking only 17 minutes. The fight back by Lotterer, who performed a quintuple stint to lop between three and five seconds per lap off of the No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid, will go down as one of the epic drives of the modern era.
"It was really a tough one and I'm really proud because we did a proper job," said Audi Sport boss Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "The championship is at a very high level and I'm proud we could win this race because it's a special one."
Fassler added: "Incredible from the beginning to the end. So many ups and downs. We've seen quite a big battle with the new technology. We're so happy we could achieve this win with these new cars."
The ACO and FIA kicked off a set of new and exceptionally high-tech LMP1 rules for 2014, and through the first half of the race, it appeared the 1000hp Toyota might have its 24-hour reliability woes cured, but a failed electrical loom ground the race-leading No. 7 to a halt just before sunrise.
As pre-race favorites, it was Toyota's race to lose, which they did as almost 260,000 fans slept trackside.
The sky also fell on Porsche's hopes and dreams within the final two hours for a win on its return to prototype racing at Le Mans when both entries limped to the pits for varying ailments.
Audi, with a package that relies more on its V6 turbodiesel than a large hybrid system, suffered mechanical issues that were easily fixed. Its rivals, with more aggressive hybrid systems, encountered problems of the non-mechanical kind, and in a form of the sports where staying on track is critical, Audi won a genuine Grand Prix of Endurance through superior reliability.
For the second year in a row, the best race throughout all 24 hours went to the LMP2 class. A frenetic scrap among a constantly rotating cast inside the top-10 saw the P2s shuffle the running order early and late, with an unexpected victor in the No. 38 Jota Sport Zytek-Nissan piloted by Simon Dolan, Harry Ticknell and super sub Oliver Turvey who stepped in at the last minute to replace Audi-bound Marc Gene.
Ticknell, the young Allan McNish protégé, and Audi's Turvey, who was at the gym in the UK on Wednesday when he got the call to join Jota, starred alongside team principal/driver Dolan, but without a terrible misfire that took the No. 35 Ligier-Nissan out of the lead, the G-Drive Racing by Oak Racing team had the class win easily in hand.
"We had a strategy from the start that we weren't going to be the quickest, but we'd be there in the end," said Ticknell. "We're there, we did it."
After starting on the pole, the No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Ligier-Nissan claimed second and the gorgeous Signatech Alpine A450b-Nissan was third, giving the Japanese manufacturer a sweep of the podium, along with fourth and fifth.
AF Corse's No. 51 GTE-Pro Ferrari F458 driven Gimmi Bruni, Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella took the lead shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday morning and held it for all but a few moments in the run to the finish. Vilander withstood fierce competition from Bruno Senna in the No. 97 Aston Martin V8 Vantage later in the morning before the British coupe succumbed to power steering issues that ended its challenge. Once the Aston was sidelined, the No. 51 team managed a 1-lap advantage over the rest of the GTE-Pro cars, making a number of bigger and better funded factory programs fall well short of their goals.
"The race was very hard so we pushed our Ferrari until the end," said AF Corse team principal Amato Ferrari. "In this kind of race we also needed a little luck. It's a great result. Second time we've won here."
Corvette Racing took second with the No. 73 C7.R after both of the iconic thundering V8s experienced mechanical, electrical or and race strategy complications that kept a win out of reach. Porsche, which looked strong early in the race, completed the top-3 with the No. 92 911 RSR.
Aston Martin's disappointing outcome in GTE-Pro was balanced by a thorough drubbing of the GTE-Am field by Kristian Poulsen, David Heinemeier Hansson, and Nicki Thiim in the No. 95 V8 Vantage. One year after the late and beloved Dane Allan Simonsen was killed at Le Mans in the No. 95 Aston Martin, seeing the all-Danish lineup take the checkered flag in Simonsen's honor had the large contingent that traveled from Denmark in a state of rapture.
The AMR car led more than half the race, but with victory seemingly assured, a problem in the final hour that required a quick visit to the garage gave DHH quite a scare.
"Thankfully it happened while I was asleep or I would have got a heart attack!" he said with a relieved laugh. His teammate Thiim summed up the emotions after the race.
"It's unbelievable; first time here...and to win it," he said. "It's for Allan [Simonsen]. It was a perfect race. It's one of the special moments."
POSITIONS AFTER 24 HOURS Pos Cl Car Drivers Laps Gap 1. LMP1 #2 Audi Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer 379 2. LMP1 #1 Audi Di Grassi/Gene/Kristensen 376 + 3 Laps 3. LMP1 #8 Toyota Davidson/Lapierre/Buemi 374 + 5 Laps 4. LMP1 #12 Rebellion Prost/Heidfeld/Beche 360 + 19 Laps 5. LMP2 #38 Zytek Dolan/Tincknell/Turvey 356 + 23 Laps 6. LMP2 #46 Ligier Thiriet/Badey/Gommendy 355 + 24 Laps 7. LMP2 #36 Alpine Chatin/Panciatici/Webb 355 + 2m36.427s 8. LMP2 #24 Oreca Rast/Charouz/Capillaire 354 + 25 Laps 9. LMP2 #35 Ligier Brundle/Mardenborough/Shulzhitskiy 354 + 1m47.751s 10. LMP2 #43 Morgan Klien/Hirsch/Brandela 352 + 27 Laps 11. LMP2 #33 Ligier Cheng/Tung/Fong 347 + 32 Laps 12. LMP2 #34 Oreca Frey/Mailleux/Lancaster 342 + 37 Laps 13. GTEP #51 Ferrari Bruni/Vilander/Fisichella 339 + 40 Laps 14. GTEP #73 Chevrolet Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor 338 + 41 Laps 15. GTEP #92 Porsche Holzer/Makowiecki/Lietz 337 + 42 Laps 16. LMP2 #29 Morgan Schell/Leutwiller/Roussel 336 + 43 Laps 17. GTEA #95 Aston Poulsen/Heinemeier-Hansson/Thiim 334 + 45 Laps 18. GTEP #74 Chevrolet Gavin/Milner/Westbrook 333 + 46 Laps 19. GTEA #88 Porsche Ried/Bachler/Al Qubaisi 332 + 47 Laps 20. GTEA #61 Ferrari Perez-Companc/Cioci/Venturi 331 + 48 Laps 21. GTEA #90 Ferrari Montecalvo/Roda/Ruberti 330 + 49 Laps 22. GTEA #77 Porsche Dempsey/Foster/Long 329 + 50 Laps 23. LMP2 #42 Zytek Kimber-Smith/McMurry/Dyson 329 + 4.355s 24. GTEA #98 Aston Dalla Lana/Lamy/Nygaard 329 + 42.976s 25. GTEA #66 Ferrari Al Faisal/Neiman/Pumpelly 327 + 52 Laps 26. GTEA #70 Ferrari Nakano/Ehret/Rich 327 + 1m40.086s 27. GTEA #58 Ferrari Barthez/Pons/Ayari 325 + 54 Laps 28. GTEA #57 Ferrari Krohn/Jonsson/Collins 324 + 55 Laps 29. GTEA #76 Porsche Narac/Armindo/Hallyday 323 + 56 Laps 30. GTEA #53 Ferrari Mowlem/Patterson/Hamilton 319 + 60 Laps 31. GTEP #79 Porsche MacNeil/Curtis/Bleekemolen 319 + 1m16.511s 32. GTEA #67 Porsche Maris/Merlin/Helary 317 + 62 Laps 33. GTEP #97 Aston Turner/Mucke/Senna 310 + 69 Laps 34. GTEP #91 Porsche Pilet/Bergmeister/Tandy 309 + 70 Laps 35. LMP2 #27 Oreca Zlobin/Salo/Ladygin 303 + 76 Laps 36. GTEA #62 Ferrari Mallegol/Bachelier/Blank 295 + 84 Laps 37. LMP1 #14 Porsche Dumas/Jani/Lieb 348 + 31 Laps 38. LMP1 #20 Porsche Bernhard/Webber/Hartley 346 + 33 Laps 39. LMP2 #50 Morgan Ragues/Taylor/Ihara 341 + 38 Laps 40. LMP1 #7 Toyota Wurz/Sarrazin/Nakajima 219 Retired 41. GTEA #72 Ferrari Bertolini/Shaitar/Basov 196 Retired 42. GTEA #75 Porsche Perrodo/Collard/Palttala 194 Retired 43. GTEP #52 Ferrari Griffin/Parente/Leo 140 Retired 44. LMP2 #26 Morgan Rusinov/Pla/Canal 120 Retired 45. GTEA #60 Ferrari Mann/Case/Giammaria 115 Retired 46. LMP2 #47 Oreca Howson/Bradley/Imperatori 87 Retired 47. LMP1 #13 Rebellion Kraihamer/Belicchi/Leimer 73 Retired 48. LMP2 #48 Oreca Berthon/Gonzalez/Chandhok 73 Retired 49. LMP2 #41 Zytek Munemman/Latif/Winslow 31 Retired 50. GTEP #71 Ferrari Rigon/Kaffer/Beretta 28 Retired 51. LMP1 #3 Audi Albuquerque/Bonanomi/Jarvis 25 Retired 52. GTEA #81 Ferrari Wyatt/Rugolo/Bird 22 Retired 53. LMP2 #37 Oreca Ladygin/Minassian/Mediani 9 Retired 54. CDNT #0 Nissan Ordonez/Reip/Motoyama 5 Retired
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