The dominant Audi R8s crossed the line in perfect formation to take a second consecutive one-two finish at La Sarthe to clinch victory in the 69th Le Mans 24 hour race. Reigning champions Emanuele Pirro, Frank Biela and Tom Kristensen finished first, ahead of the sister car of Laurent Aiello, Rinaldo Capello and Christian Pescatori in second place.
The duo of Joest-prepared Audi machines slowed the entire field down to almost a stroll and completed the final lap through a sea of flag-waving marshals.
"It was a really tough race," said a grinning Kristensen. "Staying on the track was both mentally and physically tough. It's absolutely amazing to win here. I can't believe we got through it. Amazing."
According to Biela, the fact that the same trio of drivers won last year, does not detract from this year's achievement.
"I think whenever you have the opportunity to win a 24 hour race," said Biela, "especially Le Mans, then it's a very nice thing. The first one was very, very important for sure. To win it once is difficult, but to win it twice is even more difficult."
Team Bentley made it onto the podium on its return to La Sarthe after an absence of more than 70 years, with the number eight car of Andy Wallace, Eric van de Poele and Butch Leisinger finishing third.
"I have done two very wet races at Le Mans in '92 and '95, but this has bettered both of those," said Wallace. "I'm sure it was a very difficult race for everyone."
Team mate Leisinger added: "I didn't know the extent of the Bentley tradition at Le Mans. I guessed there would be a British contingent cheering us on, but I really hadn't expected the reception we got here and it was really great to be a part of that."
The ROC Competition Reynard-Lehmann of Jean-Denis Deleltraz, Jordi Gene and Pascal Fabre finished fifth overall to win the LMP 675 class, while the Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell, Scott Pruett Corvette came home eighth to wrap up the GTS class.
Victory in the GT category went to the Seikel Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3-RS of Gabrio Rosa, Fabio Babini and Luca Drudi.
More to follow.
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