The #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro (Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer) has led a dominant Audi 1-2-3 victory at the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hour. In doing so, Audi becomes the first manufacturer to win Le Mans with a hybrid powered car, and they did it in style with the #2 R18 e-tron quattro (Capello/Kristensen/McNish) finishing in second place.
It’s the second win for the Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer crew who have gone back-to-back and successfully defended their 2011 victory.
Coming home in third place was the #4 R18 ultra (Bonanomi/Jarvis/Rockenfeller). Upsetting a clean sweep of the top four places for Audi was the Lotus sponsored #22 Rebellion Racing Lola (Prost/Jani/Heidfeld). Just one lap behind, in fifth place, was the #3 Audi R18 ultra (Dumas/Duval/Gene).
A special mention for the sixth placed car, too, the #22 JRM HPD ARX03a-Honda featured Australian David Brabham.
While the history books will show Audi dominated the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans it was far from smooth sailing. All four cars spent time off the track to varying degrees. The two most notable incidents came with just under three hours to go when Marc Gene driving the #3 car, in fourth place at the time, crashed into the barrier on the exit to one of the chicanes on the famous Mulsanne Straight.
More drama followed moments later when Allan McNish, leading the race in the #2 car, went off the track at the Porsche Curves, while attempting to lap a slower Ferrari 458 Italia GTE entrant. And with that went the race win.
Both Audis limped back into pitlane where some efficient repairs had both cars back out on track inside 15 minutes. Alas, neither car could regain the positions lost. McNish’s crewmate Dindo Capello was celebrating his 48th birthday in what is expected to be his final Le Mans race. Meanwhile, Tom Kristensen missed out on his chance to add to his all-time Le Mans record of eight race wins.
Earlier in the race Toyota had taken the challenge up to Audi with great success. Indeed, the #7 TS030 took the outright lead in the sixth hour. Almost as soon as the #7 car took the lead the sister car crashed out dramatically after Anthony Davidson tangled with a GTE Am Ferrari 458 Italia. Davidson suffered fractures to his back, but is expected to make a full recovery.
A Safety Car period followed the Davidson crash and on the restart the #7 Toyota, with Kazuki Nakajima at the wheel, clipped the Nissan DeltaWing forcing the experimental Nissan into eventual retirement. An alternator problem saw the #7 car drop down the field, before an engine failure ended Toyota’s promising return to Le Mans inside 11 hours.
We’ll have more from Audi in the next day or so. For now you can see video of the two Audi crashes from the late in the race after the break. And a full list showing all finishing positions can be seen on the FIA World Endurance Championship website.
24 Hours of Le Mans 2012 – Top 6
|1||#1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro||Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer||378|
|2||#2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro||Capello/Kristensen/McNish||377|
|3||#4 Audi R18 ultra||Bonanomi/Jarvis/Rockenfeller||375|
|4||#12 Rebellion Racing Lola B12/60 Coupe||Prost/Jani/Heidfeld||367|
|5||#3 Audi R18 ultra||Dumas/Duval/Gene||366|
|6||#22 JRM HPD ARX03a-Honda||Brabham/Chandok/Dumbreck||357|