The winners salute Bentley

The 71st Le Mans 24 Hours was a 'lights-to-flag' victory for Les Bentley Boys and it was a special performance at a special race. Despite running as favourites from the start, the standard pre-race team stance - that 24 hours is a long time - barely hides the fact that just finishing is winning, of a sort, at La Sarthe

The winners salute Bentley

Watching the three-time winner Frank Biela struggling pathetically to regain the pits in his Audi R8, after being baulked at the pitlane entrance by an errant Panoz and forced to run a lap more than he had fuel for, says it all.

It is therefore understandable how relieved and convivial the nine drivers were when they appeared at the post race press conference. The first to speak was five-time and fourth consecutive winner - a new Le Mans record - Tom Kristensen.

"It's always great to win but for sure this win with a historic team like Bentley is very special," he said. "We had a near perfect race on the track and a perfect one in the pits." I was able to do quick laps, especially at night. It was great to drive with my good friend Dindo (Capello) and Guy (Smith) did an excellent job as well."

For team-mate Capello, the win was his first and the culmination of any sportscar driver's dream. "I have dreamt of winning this race. Le Mans is the biggest sportscar race in the world and it's great to add this victory to those I have at Sebring and Petit Le Mans," he said (as Kristensen grabbed his head and pointed it at the microphone). "The team did a perfect job in the pits, we were able to push when we had to and then limit the risk to get the car to the finish."

Britain's Guy Smith finished the classic endurance race for the first time in three attempts: "To get my first finish, and to finish first with it is fantastic. And even more so to share the podium with Stefan Johanssen (third in the Audi) who gave me my first chance in sportscars really makes it special.

"I want to thank Bentley, who have shown great loyalty to me over the last three years, and I hope I have repaid their faith in me."

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