French Audi for 24 Hours

Top-line French race team ORECA is linking up with Audi to field an R8 in the 2005 Le Mans 24 Hours to try to put an all-French driver line-up on the top step of the podium for the first time since 1978

French Audi for 24 Hours

Champ Car title winner Sebastien Bourdais is favourite to lead the driving squad with Emmanuel Collard and Nicolas Minassian completing the line-up. Renault F1 tester Franck Montagny and F1 driver turned rally ace Stephane Sarrazin are also said to be in the frame.

ORECA boss Hugues de Chaunac has been working on the idea for some time and Autosport first revealed his intentions in November. The deal has now been finalised with backing coming from Audi France and Playstation.

De Chaunac said: "There will be a blue Audi at Le Mans with three French drivers. An all-French crew hasn't won since Renault [with Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud in '78] and we want to change that."

The deal means that there should be at least three Audis at Le Mans next year as the US Champion team is expected to run two of the all-conquering Audi prototypes. ORECA now becomes a victory favourite.

De Chaunac's team was Audi's closest competitor at La Sarthe in 2001 and 2002 when it ran Dallaras powered by Chrysler and then Judd engines, however he is pleased to have linked up with the German manufacturer now.

"They have such a technical advantage," said de Chaunac. "We were close on outright speed in 2002, but not in terms of reliability or fuel consumption. There was no way to beat Audi. If you can't beat them, then you have to join them."

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