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Audi’s Reign Continues At The 2012 Le Mans 24

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 17 2012

The Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro hybrids had a big 24 hours at Le Mans.

By Jim Pedley | Manaing Editor
RacinToday.com

Audi continued its reign at Le Mans on Sunday when its LMP1 cars swept the podium at the 80th running of the famed 24-hour race.

Winning was the No. 1 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro hybrid of Audi Sport Team Joest which was driven by Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer.

It was the first victory by a hybrid car at Le Mans.

“The first was find your rhythm the rest was flat out all the time,” Lotterer said. “Great fight. It was true racing.”

Second was the No. 1’s sister car, which was driven by Allan McNish, eight-time-winner Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello.

Third was the No. 4 Audi R18 Ultra, which was driven by Mike Rockenfeller, Oliver Jarvis and Marco Bonanomi.

The Audi stranglehold was broken by the Rebellion Racing Lola B12/60-Toyota of Nicolas Prost, Neel Jani and former F1 driver Nick Heidfeld, which finished fourth.

A fourth factory Audi, the No. 3 R18 Ultra, finished fifth.

Things did not go completely smoothly on track for the top Audi teams, however.

On Sunday, Spain’s Marc Gene lost control of the No 3 Audi and crashed into the safety barrier at the first chicane, the exact same spot where teammate Romain Dumas had lost control of the same car on Saturday afternoon.

Soon after that, McNish, in the No 2 Audi, went off at the Porsche Curves and also hit the safety barrier.

McNish’s car had been in the lead at the time of the incident.

“This is Le Mans,” McNish, a two-time winner of the 24, said of the wreck.

The much-anticipated debut of the Toyota TS 030 hybrids looked promising early in the race as the two entries appeared capable of hanging with the Audi entries.

But disaster struck both cars inside the first eight hours. First, the No. 8 Toyota being driven by Anthony Davidson was chopped by 56-year-old Piergiuseppe Perazzini in the GTE Am No. 81 AF Corse Ferrari F458. Davidson’s car flew into the air and flipped. The Toyota came down and then slammed into tire barriers in the Mulsanne Corner.

Davidson suffered a broken back and was taken to a hospital.

The second Toyota hybrid was battling for the lead when driver Kazuki Nakajima, a Le Mans rookie, made a big mistake when he turned into the DeltaWing car. The Toyota suffered severe damage to the right rear and had to be taken to the garage. It was repaired but hopes for a good finish were over.

The innovative DeltaWing car was sent into a wall head-on by the impact and its debut run was over.

The LMP2, the victory went to the American Starworks Motorsports team. Its HPD ARX 03B Honda was driven by Ryan Dalziel, Tom Kimber-Smith and Enzo Potolicchio.

Winning in GTE Pro was the Ferrari 458 of AF Corse which was driven by Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander.

In GTE Am, the France-based No. 50 Corvette C6 R of Larbre Competition passed the Porsche 911 RSR of IMSA Performance Matmut in the final minutes to get the victory.

(This story will be updated shortly)

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 17 2012
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