24 Hours of Le Mans 2009 in words and pictures

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

As reported last night, Australia’s David Brabham, along with Marc Gené and Alexander Wurz, drove their Peugeot 908 HDi to victory at Le Mans, finally beating fierce rivals Audi. Both teams headed the field for most of the weekend, with the Peugeot team dominating the race.

“It’s such a great feeling to have won,” beamed David Brabham. “Peugeot Sport did a tremendous job; they really did.

“It’s a great team – they gave us a 100 per cent reliable car and the three of us drove a faultless race.”

Audi, on the other hand, began the race with high hopes. With five successive Le Mans wins behind them, and a hard fought win over Peugeot in the Sebring 12 hour for their new R15 TDI, the 2009 race was always going to be a fight between the French and German teams, despite a renewed bid from Aston Martin.

Audi sent three cars to La Sarthe, but only one remained in contention. Although, as the race drew to a close hopes began to fade and the #1 R15 TDI held on for a safe third place, some seven laps behind the race winner.

The Audi team were gracious in defeat and, according to Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport, are already planning their 2010 assault, “Obviously we are a little disappointed about the result. We didn’t manage to extract the full potential of the Audi R15 TDI in the race, which we had seen during testing.

“In addition, we had several technical problems that really caught us by surprise. As a result, we could only get one car onto the podium. Peugeot produced a fantastic performance and certainly deserved the victory. We will analyze the problems we had to ensure we come back stronger in 2010.”

More from the Peugeot and Audi PR teams below.

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Peugeot 908 HDi - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Australia’s David Brabham Wins Le Mans 24 Hours with Peugeot

Australian David Brabham has won the world’s most famous motor race, the Le Mans 24 Hours, leading home a resounding one-two for Peugeot.

The 43 year-old Australian combined with team mates Alexander Wurz (Austria) and Marc Gene (Spain) to score Peugeot’s first win in the classic endurance test since 1993.

It was the youngest Brabham’s 16th attempt at the great race and comes in the year celebrating the 50th anniversary of his famous father Sir Jack Brabham’s first Grand Prix victory.

It also replicates the efforts of his brother Geoff, who was the last Australian to taste victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe 16 years ago – coincidentally the last time Peugeot won at Le Mans.

The win was the Team Peugeot Total’s first in the Le Mans 24 Hours with the diesel-powered 908 HDi FAP, which first entered the event in 2007.

The result takes the firm’s Le Mans score to three wins following its previous triumphs in 1992 and 1993.

With the exception of a short instant early in the race on Saturday afternoon, Peugeot led from flag to flag; initially with the No.8 car of Stéphane Sarrazin, Franck Montagny and Sébastien Bourdais, then with the No.9 car of Gené, Wurz and Brabham, which inherited top spot after around five hours, before going on to defend its advantage until the finish.

The No.7 car of Nicolas Minassian, Pedro Lamy and Christian Klien rounded off Peugeot’s weekend by completing the race in sixth spot after fighting back from a pitlane incident early in the race.

The No.9 car’s winning distance of 382 laps around the 13.6km circuit (5206km) is a race record and all three factory Peugeots were running strongly after an entire day of racing.

“I think it might take a few days for this to sink in – it’s all quite unbelievable. What can I say?” beamed David Brabham.

“It’s such a great feeling to have won,” beamed David Brabham.

“Peugeot Sport did a tremendous job; they really did.

“It’s a great team – they gave us a 100 per cent reliable car and the three of us drove a faultless race.”

Alexander Wurz, the youngest driver ever to win the endurance classic in 1996, notched up his second success in La Sarthe.

“What made the difference? The fact that we kept it on the track without picking up any damage.

“We also had a great team behind us, and a phenomenal car. It’s a fantastic feeling to have won in France in a French car.”

“To have won a race this big is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” said Marc Gené.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it. It really is a very emotional moment for me.”

Peugeot Sport Director, Olivier Quesnel believed the team faced a huge challenge ahead of the event.

“We were here as challengers, and our mission was to try to topple the favourites, and that is exactly what we did – essentially by steering clear of the different potential pitfalls in our path.

“It turned out to be a terrific race, and Peugeot Sport is a truly magnificent team.

“I am so proud of all the people who were involved in this project – this win is Peugeot Sport’s win.”

It was an all-round team effort from the Team Peugeot Total squad, with No.8 scoring pole position, No.7 claiming the fastest race lap, and No.9 winning the race.

Bruno Famin, Technical Director, Peugeot Sport, could not have been happier with the performance of the diesel V12 powered Peugeots.

“We didn’t have any technical problems this weekend; just a few racing incidents which upset certain gameplans.

“The Peugeot 908 HDi FAP has demonstrated its reliability by winning against Audi which has been an invincible force here for practically a decade.

“This is the result of not just one, but four years’ hard effort.”

Audi R15 TDI - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Audi R15 TDI - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Audi R15 TDI - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Audi R15 TDI - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Audi R15 TDI - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Audi R15 TDI - 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009

Audi – Quotes after the race at Le Mans

Ingolstadt/Le Mans – Audi finished on the podium for the eleventh time in succession in probably the world’s toughest endurance race. The quotes after the 77th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “Obviously we are a little disappointed about the result. We didn’t manage to extract the full potential of the Audi R15 TDI in the race, which we had seen during testing. In addition, we had several technical problems that really caught us by surprise. As a result, we could only get one car onto the podium. Peugeot produced a fantastic performance and certainly deserved the victory. We will analyze the problems we had to ensure we come back stronger in 2010.”

Dindo Capello (Audi R15 TDI #1): “I don’t think we should have any regrets because we did our best. The competition was stronger than us this time. Losing serves a purpose and can help to improve something which we previously believed to be the best. We are well aware that we can improve still further. I’m convinced that from tomorrow everybody – including the drivers – will work to be as strong as usual.”

Tom Kristensen (Audi R15 TDI #1): “Congratulations to Peugeot. The drivers drove exceptionally well, the car covered the distance of 24-hours without difficulty – and this is what it’s all about here at Le Mans. We were third this year, but can nevertheless be proud. Our new baby, the Audi R15 TDI, won against equally strong competition on its racing premiere at Sebring and obviously victory at Le Mans was also our target. We have already celebrated many victories and can also hold our heads high after this race: Every engineer, mechanic and driver did their all. My thanks go to Dindo (Capello) and Allan (McNish) for a fantastic week here in Le Mans. My hope is that after eight victories and one defeat to return next year and take revenge.”

Allan McNish (Audi R15 TDI #1): “We can be totally satisfied with third place overall, even though we would have also preferred to have won and therefore continue Audi’s fantastic and unbelievable winning streak at Le Mans. This series had to come to an end sooner or later, as is the case with all good things in life. We’d already had a very hard battle with Peugeot in the previous two years. This time they were better than us. Congratulations to Marc Gené, Alex Wurz and David Brabham. Everybody who knows Audi Sport and us knows that we will now regroup in order to return even stronger.”

Timo Bernhard (Audi R15 TDI #3): “It goes without saying that I had expected a better result that 17th position. We were jinxed from the beginning. We had a problem with the fuel pump after my fourth stint. The team produced a superhuman effort to repair the system so that the car could continue. Ultimately this paid off because we were able to test numerous things for the number 1 car. For me personally it was extremely good because, on the one hand I could demonstrate my qualities and on the other I had the opportunity to complete the race. I’ll take a lot of fond memories with me. The good ones by far outweigh the bad ones. I hope that this chance repeats itself.”

Romain Dumas (Audi R15 TDI #3): “They really were very difficult and an extremely long 24-hours for us. We encountered the first problem after only a few minutes and had no real target later. We continued to give everything and tried to learn more about the Audi R15 TDI. We managed this even though we had a few problems.”

Alexandre Prémat (Audi R15 TDI #3): “That was a tough weekend for everyone of us. Of course we are a little disappointed about what happened. But we have to remain motivated: Every mechanic, engineer and also Dr Ullrich. We have to learn from our mistakes and find out what didn’t work to be able to strike back next year. Unfortunately we had several problems with our car. Every driver gave their all. It was a fantastic experience to share the car with Romain (Dumas) and Timo (Bernhard).”

Lucas Luhr (Audi R15 TDI #2): “The result is very sobering, especially for me personally after the crash. Even after a night’s sleep I still don’t know exactly what happened. It was very strange. But we’ll find out in due course. Nonetheless: Congratulations to Peugeot! A one-two here is always difficult. My opinion is that they deserved it. We fought a damage limitation exercise with the number 1 car and made the podium.”

Mike Rockenfeller (Audi R15 TDI #2): “Congratulations to Peugeot. They did a good job. Congratulations also to the number 1 car which made the podium. This deserves respect. We are very spoiled at Audi because of the successful years behind us. This is sport, we are only human. We simply weren’t strong enough this year, but I’m satisfied with my personal performance. I drove at the start in Le Mans with a sport prototype for the first time and had had three excellent opening stints. I had some great fights with Allan (McNish). I didn’t get back in the car afterwards. It’s important that Lucas (Luhr) is okay. Now we have to do our homework.”

Marco Werner (Audi R15 TDI #2): “Of course it is not nice if you don’t finish this race. To make the finish here is always a huge success and the main priority. We should be satisfied with third place, even though Audi obviously came to win the race. We’ve managed this so many years in succession. However, there are so many people along the pit lane who would give their left arm for such a result. You can’t always win.”

Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “Today we weren’t so faultless as usual. All sorts of things happened to us. The crews worked fantastically well and effectively ironed out all the mistakes that occurred in engineering and the organization. They are to thank for the third place we took. Congratulations to Peugeot! They demonstrated what is usually said about us, namely a mistake free race. You just have to accept and analyze such, then you emerge from it 100 per cent strengthened. We should view it like this, and next year we’ll win the big trophy again!”