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Le Mans 24 Hours: Audi claims one-two after dramatic race

Audi took a one-two finish in a dramatic Le Mans 24 Hours where all seven factory LMP1 cars hit trouble at various times.

Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer led home the sister car of Tom Kristensen, Lucas di Grassi and Marc Gene, as Audi won a battle of attrition against Toyota and Porsche for overall honours.

Both leading Audis suffered turbo dramas on Sunday morning, which handed Porsche's #20 car of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard an opportunity to fight for victory, putting the 919 Hybrid into the lead with just three hours to go.

But the #20 car was no match for the pace of a recovering Lotterer in the #2 Audi, and the R18 e-tron quattro had already taken the lead when Webber slowed from second towards the end of the 22nd hour.

The Porsche's problems allowed the #1 Audi, in which Kristensen had appeared to be en route to a 10th Le Mans as the race passed the 20 hour mark before requiring a turbo change, to recover to second place, three laps down.

The #8 Toyota crew of Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sebastien Buemi salvaged an unlikely podium finish once both Porsches (#14 stopping late-on with a gearbox problem, but rejoining to take the chequered flag) were forced into the garage, but that was scant reward for a race that the Japanese manufacturer controlled for more than half of its duration.

While the #8 car was ruled out of contention for victory when Lapierre crashed heavily during a rain storm early on (an incident that also accounted for the retirement of the third Audi with Marco Bonanomi at the wheel), the polesitting #7 car was seemingly unassailable out front.

The #2 Audi put up a fight to the leading Toyota during the night, but the gap was always above one minute.

Nakajima, having taken over from Stephane Sarrazin, was extending the lead early into his stint when the TS040 HYBRID stopped on track with an electrical problem - robbing Toyota of the victory it desperately craved.

JOTA WINS HARD-FOUGHT LMP2 BATTLE

Jota Sport won a closely-fought LMP2 category with its Zytek-Nissan Z11SN.

Harry Tincknell, sharing with Simon Dolan and Oliver Turvey, had led the class early on after passing the polesitting #46 TDS Ligier but the car fell down the class order during the rain-induced early chaos.

But as the race progressed, it recovered and with Turvey at the wheel, jumped the Ligier at the penultimate pitstop.

Tristan Gommendy had led LMP2 heading into the final hour, but TDS had to pit for new tyres and a driver change at its penultimate stop having earlier lost time in the 21st hour with a puncture and resulting suspension damage.

When Turvey made his stop, he did not have to take tyres and continued in the car, emerging just ahead of the Ligier now driven by Ludovic Badey.

Although Badey had a tyre advantage, Turvey pulled away and never looked like losing victory.

The #36 Signatech Alpine ORECA of Nelson Panciatici, Paul-Loup Chatin and Oliver Webb finished third and spent time in the class lead, but lost time after suffering a front-left upright failure.

But the G-Drive-branded, OAK Racing-run #35 Ligier was the star turn in LMP2, leading the race and building up a comfortable lead before losing time first with a broken rear brake disc and then a loss of power.

The car, driven by Alex Brundle, Jann Mardenborough and Mark Shultzhitskiy, had salvaged fourth place but a late puncture meant it dropped to fifth behind the #24 Sebastien Loeb Racing ORECA.

The #47 KCMG ORECA climbed from seventh on the grid to lead during the first stint in the hands of Alexandre Imperatori.

After losing time with an off during the early-race rain when Richard Bradley aquaplaned off and hit a stack of tyres, the car crashed on the run out of the Porsche Curves as a result of a driveshaft failure.

The #48 Murphy Prototypes ORECA also showed strongly, but Karun Chandok aquaplaned off on the Mulsanne Straight in the rain and was collected by the #41 Greaves Zytek and later retired from the race with a steering problem.

FERRARI TAKES GTE VICTORY

The AF Corse Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander took a comfortable victory in the GTE category, after its early rivals faltered.

Bruni, who had qualified the 458 Italia on pole, crossed the line two laps clear of the leading Corvette C7.R, which overcame a safety car delay and a broken air jack in the pits to defeat the leading Manthey Porsche in the fight for second.

Frederic Makowiecki held the place in the closing stages in the #92 911 RSR he shared with Marco Holzer and Richard Lietz, but was delayed in his penultimate pitstop and dropped behind the Antonio Garcia/Jan Magnussen/Jordan Taylor #73 C7.R.

The sister Corvette finished fourth, frustrated after its early challenge for the lead in the hands of Oliver Gavin, Richard Westbrook and Tommy Milner was derailed by overnight alternator issues.

A power steering hose issue helped consign the long-time race leading Vantage of Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Bruno Senna to 19th overall in GTE, 27 laps down on the winning Ferrari, but AMR's #95 car claimed the spoils in GTE Am.

Aston had looked set for a one-two in the Pro-Am division, with Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Christoffer Nygaard making the early running in the #98 car.

When their car was hit by the same power-steering issues that afflicted the Pro entry, the #95 car - which comprised Kristian Poulsen, David Heinemeier-Hansson and Nicki Thiim - moved ahead, surviving a late power issue and brief spell in the garage to comfortably defeat the #88 Proton Competition Porsche and #61 AF Ferrari.

Results - 379 laps:

Pos  Cl     Drivers                       Team/Car                   Time/Gap
 1.  P1     Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer     Audi                  24h01m59.830s
 2.  P1     Di Grassi/Gene/Kristensen     Audi                        -3 laps
 3.  P1     Davidson/Lapierre/Buemi       Toyota                      -5 laps
 4.  P1     Prost/Heidfeld/Beche          Rebellion-Toyota           -19 laps
 5.  P2     Dolan/Tincknell/Turvey        Jota Zytek-Nissan          -23 laps
 6.  P2     Thiriet/Badey/Gommendy        TDS Ligier-Nissan          -24 laps
 7.  P2     Chatin/Panciatici/Webb        Signatech ORECA-Nissan     -24 laps
 8.  P2     Rast/Charouz/Capillaire       Loeb ORECA-Nissan          -25 laps
 9.  P2     Brundle/Mardenborough/S'skiy  OAK Ligier-Nissan          -25 laps
10.  P2     Klien/Hirsch/Brandela         Morand Morgan-Judd         -27 laps
11.  P2     Cheng/Tung/Fong               OAK Ligier-HPD             -32 laps
12.  P2     Frey/Mailleux/Lancaster       Race Perf ORECA-Judd       -37 laps
13.  GTE P  Bruni/Vilander/Fisichella     AF Ferrari                 -40 laps
14.  GTE P  Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor       Corvette                   -41 laps
15.  GTE P  Holzer/Makowiecki/Lietz       Manthey Porsche            -42 laps
16.  P2     Schell/Leutwiler/Roussel      Pegasus Morgan-Nissan      -43 laps
17.  GTE A  Poulsen/Hansson/Thiim         Aston Martin               -45 laps
18.  GTE P  Gavin/Milner/Westbrook        Corvette                   -46 laps
19.  GTE A  Ried/Bachler/Al Qubaisi       Proton Porsche             -47 laps
20.  GTE A  Perez-Companc/Cioci/Venturi   AF Ferrari                 -48 laps
21.  GTE A  Montecalvo/Roda/Ruberti       8Star Ferrari              -49 laps
22.  GTE A  Dempsey/Foster/Long           Dempsey Porsche            -50 laps
23.  P2     Kimber-Smith/McMurry/Dyson    Greaves Zytek-Nissan       -50 laps
24.  GTE A  Dalla Lana/Lamy/Nygaard       Aston Martin               -50 laps
25.  GTE A  Al Faisal/Neiman/Pumpelly     JMW Ferrari                -52 laps
26.  GTE A  Nakano/Ehret/Rich             Taisan Ferrari             -52 laps
27.  GTE A  Barthez/Pons/Ayari            Sofrev Ferrari             -54 laps
28.  GTE A  Krohn/Jonsson/Collins         Krohn Ferrari              -55 laps
29.  GTE A  Narac/Armindo/Hallyday        Imsa Porsche               -56 laps
30.  GTE A  Mowlem/Patterson/Hamilton     Ram Ferrari                -60 laps
31.  GTE P  MacNeil/Bleekemolen           Prospeed Porsche           -60 laps
32.  GTE A  Maris/Merlin/Helary           Imsa Porsche               -62 laps
33.  GTE P  Turner/Mucke/Senna            Aston Martin               -69 laps
34.  GTE P  Pilet/Bergmeister/Tandy       Manthey Porsche            -70 laps
35.  P2     Zlobin/Salo/Ladygin           SMP ORECA-Nissan           -76 laps
36.  GTE A  Mallegol/Bachelier/Blank      AF Ferrari                 -84 laps

Not classified:

     P1     Dumas/Jani/Lieb               Porsche                    348 laps
     P1     Bernhard/Webber/Hartley       Porsche                    346 laps
     P2     Ragues/Taylor/Ihara           Larbre Morgan-Judd         341 laps

Retirements:

     P1     Wurz/Sarrazin/Nakajima        Toyota                     219 laps
     GTE A  Bertolini/Shaitar/Basov       SMP Ferrari                196 laps
     GTE A  Perrodo/Collard/Palttala      Prospeed Porsche           194 laps
     GTE P  Griffin/Parente/Leo           Ram Ferrari                140 laps
     P2     Rusinov/Pla/Canal             OAK Morgan-Nissan          120 laps
     GTE A  Mann/Case/Giammaria           AF Ferrari                 115 laps
     P2     Howson/Bradley/Imperatori     KCMG ORECA-Nissan           87 laps
     P1     Kraihamer/Belicchi/Leimer     Rebellion-Toyota            73 laps
     P2     Berthon/Gonzalez/Chandhok     Murphy ORECA-Nissan         73 laps
     P2     Munemman/Latif/Winslow        Greaves Zytek-Nissan        31 laps
     GTE P  Rigon/Kaffer/Beretta          AF Ferrari                  28 laps
     P1     Albuquerque/Bonanomi/Jarvis   Audi                        25 laps
     GTE A  Wyatt/Rugolo/Bird             AF Ferrari                  22 laps
     P2     Ladygin/Minassian/Mediani     SMP ORECA-Nissan             9 laps
     C      Ordonez/Reip/Motoyama         Nissan ZEOD                  5 laps
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