Audi took a one-two finish in a dramatic Le Mans 24 Hours where all seven factory LMP1 cars hit trouble at various times.
Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer led home the sister car of Tom Kristensen, Lucas di Grassi and Marc Gene, as Audi won a battle of attrition against Toyota and Porsche for overall honours.
Both leading Audis suffered turbo dramas on Sunday morning, which handed Porsche's #20 car of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard an opportunity to fight for victory, putting the 919 Hybrid into the lead with just three hours to go.
But the #20 car was no match for the pace of a recovering Lotterer in the #2 Audi, and the R18 e-tron quattro had already taken the lead when Webber slowed from second towards the end of the 22nd hour.
The Porsche's problems allowed the #1 Audi, in which Kristensen had appeared to be en route to a 10th Le Mans as the race passed the 20 hour mark before requiring a turbo change, to recover to second place, three laps down.
The #8 Toyota crew of Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sebastien Buemi salvaged an unlikely podium finish once both Porsches (#14 stopping late-on with a gearbox problem, but rejoining to take the chequered flag) were forced into the garage, but that was scant reward for a race that the Japanese manufacturer controlled for more than half of its duration.
While the #8 car was ruled out of contention for victory when Lapierre crashed heavily during a rain storm early on (an incident that also accounted for the retirement of the third Audi with Marco Bonanomi at the wheel), the polesitting #7 car was seemingly unassailable out front.
The #2 Audi put up a fight to the leading Toyota during the night, but the gap was always above one minute.
Nakajima, having taken over from Stephane Sarrazin, was extending the lead early into his stint when the TS040 HYBRID stopped on track with an electrical problem - robbing Toyota of the victory it desperately craved.
JOTA WINS HARD-FOUGHT LMP2 BATTLE
Jota Sport won a closely-fought LMP2 category with its Zytek-Nissan Z11SN.
Harry Tincknell, sharing with Simon Dolan and Oliver Turvey, had led the class early on after passing the polesitting #46 TDS Ligier but the car fell down the class order during the rain-induced early chaos.
But as the race progressed, it recovered and with Turvey at the wheel, jumped the Ligier at the penultimate pitstop.
Tristan Gommendy had led LMP2 heading into the final hour, but TDS had to pit for new tyres and a driver change at its penultimate stop having earlier lost time in the 21st hour with a puncture and resulting suspension damage.
When Turvey made his stop, he did not have to take tyres and continued in the car, emerging just ahead of the Ligier now driven by Ludovic Badey.
Although Badey had a tyre advantage, Turvey pulled away and never looked like losing victory.
The #36 Signatech Alpine ORECA of Nelson Panciatici, Paul-Loup Chatin and Oliver Webb finished third and spent time in the class lead, but lost time after suffering a front-left upright failure.
But the G-Drive-branded, OAK Racing-run #35 Ligier was the star turn in LMP2, leading the race and building up a comfortable lead before losing time first with a broken rear brake disc and then a loss of power.
The car, driven by Alex Brundle, Jann Mardenborough and Mark Shultzhitskiy, had salvaged fourth place but a late puncture meant it dropped to fifth behind the #24 Sebastien Loeb Racing ORECA.
The #47 KCMG ORECA climbed from seventh on the grid to lead during the first stint in the hands of Alexandre Imperatori.
After losing time with an off during the early-race rain when Richard Bradley aquaplaned off and hit a stack of tyres, the car crashed on the run out of the Porsche Curves as a result of a driveshaft failure.
The #48 Murphy Prototypes ORECA also showed strongly, but Karun Chandok aquaplaned off on the Mulsanne Straight in the rain and was collected by the #41 Greaves Zytek and later retired from the race with a steering problem.
FERRARI TAKES GTE VICTORY
The AF Corse Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander took a comfortable victory in the GTE category, after its early rivals faltered.
Bruni, who had qualified the 458 Italia on pole, crossed the line two laps clear of the leading Corvette C7.R, which overcame a safety car delay and a broken air jack in the pits to defeat the leading Manthey Porsche in the fight for second.
Frederic Makowiecki held the place in the closing stages in the #92 911 RSR he shared with Marco Holzer and Richard Lietz, but was delayed in his penultimate pitstop and dropped behind the Antonio Garcia/Jan Magnussen/Jordan Taylor #73 C7.R.
The sister Corvette finished fourth, frustrated after its early challenge for the lead in the hands of Oliver Gavin, Richard Westbrook and Tommy Milner was derailed by overnight alternator issues.
A power steering hose issue helped consign the long-time race leading Vantage of Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Bruno Senna to 19th overall in GTE, 27 laps down on the winning Ferrari, but AMR's #95 car claimed the spoils in GTE Am.
Aston had looked set for a one-two in the Pro-Am division, with Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Christoffer Nygaard making the early running in the #98 car.
When their car was hit by the same power-steering issues that afflicted the Pro entry, the #95 car - which comprised Kristian Poulsen, David Heinemeier-Hansson and Nicki Thiim - moved ahead, surviving a late power issue and brief spell in the garage to comfortably defeat the #88 Proton Competition Porsche and #61 AF Ferrari.
Triumph at Le Mans: Audi defeats Porsche and Toyota
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Triumph at Le Mans: Audi defeats Porsche and Toyota• Audi takes one-two win in world’s most important endurance race• 13th success for Audi in 16 runs at Le Mans • Rupert Stadler: “A fantastic achievement by the whole squad”
Ingolstadt/Le Mans, June 15, 2014 – In front of nearly 300,000 spectators, Audi continued its unique string of victories in the Le Mans 24 Hours. In the 82nd running of the world’s most important endurance race, Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer (CH/D/F) and Lucas di Grassi/Marc Gené/Tom Kristensen (BR/E/DK) made for a one-two Audi victory. It marked the 13th Le Mans success for the brand with the four rings in only 16 runs – and may have been the most valuable one to date, as Audi Sport Team Joest prevailed against massive competition by Le Mans returnee Porsche and Toyota in an extremely tough race that was completely open for a long time. The decision in favor of the two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars was only made in the final phase.“We’ve seen many exciting races and celebrated great victories at Le Mans but this success has a very special significance,” said Professor Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, following the triumphant finish by the two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars. “We didn’t enter this race as favorites and in Porsche and Toyota had two very strong rivals. That we managed to win Le Mans again this time in spite of this is a fantastic achievement by the whole Audi squad. We’re tremendously happy and my thanks go to all who have made this success possible.” “The new Le Mans regulations place an even greater focus on the efficiency of the race cars at Le Mans than before,” said Professor Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, who as Board Member for Technical Development is responsible for the motorsport program of AUDI AG. “In the TDI, the world’s most efficient drive technology has prevailed at Le Mans yet again. At the same time, with our successful first use of the laser light, we continued our string of technological pioneering achievements at Le Mans. I’d like to thank everybody who has worked extremely hard for this success, above all of course the Audi Sport squad.”For Audi, the Le Mans 24 Hours was billed as ‘Welcome Challenges’ – and there were plenty of them in the 82nd running of the famous endurance race for the brand with the four rings. Following a serious accident of Loïc Duval in Wednesday’s free practice, Audi Sport Team Joest had to prepare the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro in record time again from scratch and to replace Loïc Duval with Marc Gené. That this team was on course for victory on Sunday morning says everything about the feat performed by the mechanics. However, in the end, the change of an injector and a turbocharger narrowly prevented this fairy tale from coming true. With a gap of three laps Lucas di Grassi, Marc Gené and Tom Kristensen took second place. Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer took the lead for the first time on Sunday morning, shortly after 5 a.m., after having put consistent pressure throughout the night on the Toyota that had been leading for a long time. As the turbocharger had to be changed on their R18 as well, car #2 temporarily dropped to third place before moving back to the front in a remarkable recovery during which André Lotterer also set the fastest race lap of 3m 22.567s.Major misfortune was suffered by the squad of the third Audi R18 e-tron quattro with Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi and Oliver Jarvis. Following a strong early phase, car number ‘3’ during a safety car period in pouring rain, was hit in the rear at high speed by a GT Ferrari on the Hunaudières straight. The powertrain of the R18 was so heavily damaged in the incident that Marco Bonanomi was forced to retire after just an hour and a half. In the hectic first hours, the fascinating Le Mans prototypes of Audi, Porsche and Toyota were fighting captivating duels on the Le Mans high-speed circuit that kept the spectators in awe. The fans experienced one of the most gripping races in Le Mans history until noon on Sunday. The decision in favor of Audi was only made in the penultimate hour. “It was a race of the kind you can only experience at Le Mans,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “There were many incidents and none of the top cars made it across the distance without any problems. The decisive factors were that our Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars were able to drive consistently fast for 24 hours, our drivers made no mistakes and our squad responded properly and quickly to the issues that occurred. In Porsche and Toyota we had two really strong rivals who, as expected, did not make life easy for us. I always believed that, in spite of the particularly difficult prerequisites for us this year, we’d be able to succeed and that we’ve got the most efficient race car. That we succeeded again makes me feel proud. ‘Thanks’ also from me to the whole squad, but to our Management Board and our Group as well that make it possible for us to demonstrate ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ at le Mans year after year. But I also express my respect for the performance delivered by Porsche on their return to Le Mans.”For Audi, this marked the 13th victory in the ‘24 Heures,’ the eighth one with TDI Power and the third one with a hybrid race car. The team of Reinhold Joest celebrated its 15th success in the world’s most important endurance race. Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer, after 2011 and 2012, achieved their third Le Mans triumph.