Le Mans 24 Hours: Kristensen, McNish, Duval clinch Audi victory

Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loic Duval took a commanding victory in a Le Mans 24 Hours that was overshadowed by the death of Danish driver Allan Simonsen early in the race

Le Mans 24 Hours: Kristensen, McNish, Duval clinch Audi victory

For Kristensen it was a ninth win in the race and extended the record he already held. McNish took his third Le Mans win while Duval, who put the car on pole last Wednesday, claimed success in the race for the first time.

Audi has now won the event for 12 of the last 14 years.

Duval assumed the lead in the #2 R18 e-tron quattro in the seventh hour when the Benoit Treluyer/Andre Lotterer/Marcel Fassler #1 car, which had held the advantage from the start, spent 12 laps in the pits while an alternator problem was fixed.

A puncture sustained in traffic while Oliver Jarvis was at the wheel put the #3 Audi on the back foot at around the same time. The machine later needed further bodywork repairs that dropped it a further lap off the pace an hour later.

While the #1 car dropped outside the top 20 and the #3 fell to sixth, the Toyotas moved up to second and third.

Sebastien Buemi even had the audacity to get his #8 TS030 HYBRID back on the lead lap in the final half-hour to claim a well-deserved runner-up spot with Anthony Davidson and Stephane Sarrazin, but the #7 was not so lucky.

After losing third to Jarvis with four hours to go, Nicolas Lapierre crashed heavily at the Porsche curves, but amazingly managed to get his car back to the pits and repaired without dropping any more spots.

The Strakka HPD of Jonny Kane/Danny Watts/Nick Leventis finished sixth after the Rebellion Lola challenge was blunted by a safety car-inducing shunt for Andrea Belicchi on Sunday morning and gearbox problems for the #12 car that boasted Neel Jani and Nick Heidfeld on its line-up.

OAK WINS LMP2 BATTLE

OAK Racing claimed a one-two finish in LMP2; Bertrand Baguette recovering from a spin in the final hour when heavy rain doused the circuit to take victory with Ricardo Gonzalez and Martin Plowman.

Second was the sister Morgan-Nissan of Olivier Pla/Alex Brundle/David Heinemeier Hansson while Mike Conway/John Martin/Roman Rusinov were third in their G-Drive/Delta-ADR ORECA-Nissan.

The G-Drive machine lost two laps - the margin it finished behind the winner - to a slow puncture early on and an unscheduled pitstop to change regulation lighting panels on the side of the car during the night.

GTE Pro: PORSCHE DEFEATS ASTON AT LAST GASP

For a large portion of the race the GTE Pro division looked likely to be dominated by an Aston Martin Racing squad still in mourning after news of Simonsen's death broke on Saturday evening.

A heavy crash from leader Frederic Makowiecki at the second Mulsanne chicane with five and a half hours to go handed the advantage to the sister Vantage GTE of Stefan Mucke/Darren Turner/Rob Bell.

But as the race moved along the #92 Manthey-run factory Porsche of Richard Lietz/Marc Lieb/Romain Dumas came into contention.

The late rain shower led to a range of strategies being adopted. Lietz stayed out on dry tyres when the weather was at its worst and was then able to use the fact that Mucke had been held in the pits by a red light to open up what would be a winning a four-minute advantage at a stroke.

With the sister #91 Porsche of Patrick Pilet/Jorg Bergmeister/Timo Bernhard also making a smart tyre call at this point the Aston was relegated to third.

Neither the factory Corvettes, nor the AF Corse Ferraris were ever in contention; Toni Vilander throwing away fifth in one of the Italian machines when he planted his in the tyres at Mulsanne corner when the rain came.

GTE Am: IMSA PORSCHE WINS AFTER TRAGEDY

Aston also led the GTE Am division early on until polesitter Simonsen crashed fatally at Tertre Rouge on lap three; the Vantage GTE causing extensive damage to the crash barriers on the exit of the corner.

Marco Cioci and Matt Griffin picked up the baton and led first six hours in the #61 AF Corse Ferrari, but dropped down the order after co-driver Jack Gerber spun several times.

As the race developed and the #88 Proton and #77 Dempsey Del Piero Porsches suffered various maladies, the #76 Imsa 911 GT3 RSR of Jean-Karl Vernay/Raymond Narac/Christophe Bourret came to the fore.

A one-lap advantage was established with four hours to go, which proved enough to give the French trio victory ahead of the #55 AF Corse machine of Piergiuseppe Perazzini/Darryl O'Young/Lorenzo Case. The #61 car finished third.

Results - 348 laps:

Pos  Cl    Drivers                         Team/Car                          Time/Gap
 1.  P1    Kristensen/Duval/McNish         Audi                         24h01m16.436s
 2.  P1    Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin         Toyota                              +1 lap
 3.  P1    Gene/di Grassi/Jarvis           Audi                                +1 lap
 4.  P1    Wurz/lapierre/Nakajima          Toyota                             +7 laps
 5.  P1    Lotterer/Fassler/Treluyer       Audi                              +10 laps
 6.  P1    Leventis/Watts/Kane             Strakka HPD                       +16 laps
 7.  P2    Baguette/Gonzalez/Plowman       OAK Morgan-Nissan                 +19 laps
 8.  P2    Pla/Heinemeier Hansson/Brundle  OAK Morgan-Nissan                 +20 laps
 9.  P2    Rusinov/Martin/Conway           Delta-ADR ORECA-Nissan            +21 laps
10.  P2    Mardenborough/Ordonez/Krumm     Greaves Zytek-Nissan              +21 laps
11.  P2    Perez Companc/Kaffer/Minassian  Pecom ORECA-Nissan                +23 laps
12.  P2    Gachnang/Mailleux/Lombard       Morand Morgan-Judd                +28 laps
13.  P2    Hartley/Patterson/Chandhok      Murphy ORECA-Nissan               +29 laps
14.  P2    Dolan/Turvey/Luhr               Jota Zytek-Nissan                 +29 laps
15.  P2    Panciatici/Ragues/Gommendy      Signatech Alpine-Nissan           +31 laps
16.  GTEP  Lieb/Lietz/Dumas                Manthey Porsche                   +33 laps
17.  GTEP  Bergmeister/Pilet/Bernhard      Manthey Porsche                   +33 laps
18.  GTEP  Dumbreck/Mucke/Turner           Aston Martin                      +34 laps
19.  P2    Frey/Niederhauser/Bleekemolen   Race Performance ORECA-Judd       +34 laps
20.  GTEP  Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor         Corvette                          +36 laps
21.  GTEP  Beretta/Kobayashi/Vilander      AF Ferrari                        +36 laps
22.  GTEP  Bruni/Fisichella/Malucelli      AF Ferrari                        +37 laps
23.  GTEP  Gavin/Milner/Westbrook          Corvette                          +39 laps
24.  P2    Kimber-Smith/Lux/Rossi          Greaves Zytek-Nissan              +41 laps
25.  GTEP  Dalziel/Farnbacher/Goossens     SRT Viper                         +42 laps
26.  GTEA  Narac/Bourret/Vernay            Imsa Porsche                      +42 laps
27.  GTEA  Perazzini/Case/O'Young          AF Ferrari                        +43 laps
28.  GTEA  Gerber/Griffin/Cioci            AF Ferrari                        +43 laps
29.  GTEA  Dempsey/Foster/Long             Dempsey Del Piero Porsche         +43 laps
30.  GTEA  Bornhauser/Canal/Taylor         Larbre Corvette                   +46 laps
31.  GTEA  Campbell-Walter/Goethe/Hall     Aston Martin                      +47 laps
32.  GTEP  Bomarito/Kendall/Wittmer        SRT Viper                         +47 laps
33.  P2    Downs/Dagoneau/Younessi         Boutsen ORECA-Nissan              +48 laps
34.  GTEA  Gibon/Milesi/Henzler            Imsa Porsche                      +48 laps
35.  GTEP  Bertolini/Al Faisal/Al Qubaisi  AF Ferrari                        +48 laps
36.  GTEA  Ried/Roda/Ruberti               Proton Porsche                    +48 laps
37.  GTEA  Collard/Perrodo/Crubile         Prospeed Porsche                  +50 laps
38.  GTEA  Potolicchio/Aguas/Bright        8Star Ferrari                     +54 laps
39.  P2    Porta/Raffin/Brandela           DKR Lola-Judd                     +68 laps
40.  P1    Prost/Jani/Heidfeld             Rebellion Lola-Toyota             +73 laps
41.  P1    Belicchi/Beche/Cheng            Rebellion Lola-Toyota             +73 laps
42.  GTEA  MacNeil/Rodrigues/Dumas         Larbre Corvette                   +80 laps
43.  P2    Tucker/Franchitti/Briscoe       Level 5 HPD-Honda                +106 laps

Retirements:

     P2    Thiriet/Badey/Martin            TDS ORECA-Nissan                  310 laps
     GTEP  Bell/Makowiecki/Senna           Aston Martin                      248 laps
     P2    Nicolet/Merlin/Mondolot         OAK Morgan-Nissan                 246 laps
     P2    Imperatori/Tung/Howson          KCMG Morgan-Nissan                241 laps
     GTEP  Auberlen/Dalla Lana/Lamy        Aston Martin                      221 laps
     P2    Holzer/Kraihamer/Charouz        Lotus                             219 laps
     P2    Mowlem/Burgess/Hirschi          HWM Status Lola-Judd              153 laps
     GTEA  Mallegol/Bachelier/Blank        AF Ferrari                        147 laps
     GTEA  Krohn/Jonsson/Mediani           Krohn Ferrari                     111 laps
     P2    Graves/Nakano/Hamilton          Delta-ADR ORECA-Nissan            101 laps
     P2    Giroix/Haezebrouck/Ihara        Gulf Lola-Nissan                   22 laps
     P2    Weeda/Rossiter/Bouchut          Lotus                              17 laps
     GTEA  Simonsen/Nygaard/Poulsen        Aston Martin                        2 laps
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Le Mans 24 Hours Hour 23: Audi still ahead amid rain chaos
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