Hour 24: Audi wins Le Mans

Battle for the lead

Hour 24: Audi wins Le Mans

The finish, when it came, was as businesslike, understated and dignified as the previous 24 hours had been - it was also somewhat over-shadowed by the bizarre spectacle of the number 81 Porsche GT3R, second in the GT category, completing a full lap with the bonnet blown open and the driver Fabio Babini tanking it back to the pits with his head sticking out of the open door.
Even the final stops had been strangely low-key: a splash of fuel, a cursory wipe, but no frenetic spit and polish. With a couple of laps to cruise until 4 o'clock, Allan McNish tucked his second-placed R8 in behind Emanuele Pirro's soon-to-be winning machine, and Christian Abt had soon latched on too, but that was the nearest the Joest-run operation had got to flamboyance all week - that and a few hundred banners on the pit wall.

Audi had approached their task with a simplicity of purpose missing from many other big bucks manufacturer campaigns - the celebrating could come later, just get the job done.

But even as the cars had got within coasting distance of 4 o'clock Frank Biela was still talking it all down: "If we could finish first, it would be a dream come true," he dead-panned, "but it's still not over yet. Even in the last five minutes, something could happen, but I'm pretty sure it's looking good."

Five minutes later, with 368 laps completed and the trio of Audis barely selecting crawling pace as they crossed the line, Biela allowed himself a smile - maybe even two. Audi hadn't won the 68th Le Mans 24 Hours it had totally and utterly dominated it in a way that only Ford, Porsche and Peugeot had managed before - a crushing, ruthlessly efficient one-two-three.

With Joest Racing's past record of back-to-backing, would the Audi R8s be back next year? Audi had been coy, talking of decisions in the autumn, but what about the ever-decisive Reinhold Joest?

"Absolutely!"

Watch this space...


No surprises, but just for the record: Beretta/Wendlinger/Dupuy's ORECA Viper took GTS honours; Muller/Luhr/Wollek and Dick Barbour Racing steam-rollered the GT class, and the Multimatic Lola-Nissan B2k/40 of Maxwell/Graham/Wilkins survived to take the LMP 675 category.


Pos No Drivers Car Class Laps/Time
8, F Biela, T Kristensen, E Pirro, Audi R8 (900), 368 laps
9, L Aiello, A McNish, S Ortelli, Audi R8 (900), +1 lap
7, M Alboreto, C Abt, R Capello, Audi R8 (900), +3 laps
16, S Bourdais, O Grouillard, E Clerico, C Peugeot (900), +24 laps
12, H Katoh, J O'Connell, P H Raphanel, Panoz Spyder LMP (900), +26 laps
23, T Suzuki, M Kageyama, M Kageyama, Panoz Spyder LMP (900), +28 laps
51, O Beretta, K Wendlinger, D Dupuy, Oreca Viper (GTS), +35 laps
22, K Tsuchiya, M Kondo, A Iida, Panoz Spyder LMP (900), +38 laps
53, D Donohue, N Amorim, A Beltoise, Dodge Viper (GTS), +40 laps
, 64, A Pilgrim, K Collins, F Freon, Corvette (GTS), +41 laps


Class No Driver Car Time
900 9, A McNish Audi R8 3:37.359


Class No Drivers Car Class Time
32, S Maxwell, J Graham, G Wilkins, Lola Nissan 2K/40, +94 laps
51, O Beretta, K Wendlinger, D Dupuy, Oreca Viper, +35 laps
83, D Muller, L Luhr, B Wollek, Porsche GT3R, +49 laps


No Drivers Car Laps Reason
4, M Goossens, C Tinseau, K Kolby, DAM'S Cadillac LMP (900), fire - 5 laps
5, Y Dalmas, N Minassian, J P Belloc, ORECA Reynard-Mopar 2KQ (900), oil pressure - 1 lap
20, J Lammers, P Kox, T Coronel, Konrad Lola B2K/10 (900), retired, 38 laps
33, J D Deletraz, R Kelleners, D Terrien, ROC VW (675), engine, 44 laps
77, C Bouchut, J Chereau, P Gouselard, Porsche GT3-R, accident, 34 laps
34, J-C Boullion, J Gene, G Policand, Reynard Volkswagen (675), engine, 72 laps
24, S Johansson, J Matthews, G Smith, Reynard Judd 2KQ, engine, 126 laps
21, M Schiattarella, D de Radigues, E Naspetti, Lola Judd B2K/10, stopped, 154 laps
54, G Martinolle, J C Lagnez, B Derichebourg, Dodge Viper, engine, 180 laps
56, M Hezemans, D Hart, N Hugenholz, Dodge Viper, accident, 210 laps
17, P Gache, G Formato, D Cottaz, Courage Peugeot, engine, 219 laps

For a full list of race results click here.


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Hour 23: Are we nearly there yet…?

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