Audi won the gruelling race for the 10th time on Sunday with Andre Lotterer taking the chequered flag in the German manufacturer's R18 TDI car.
Photos: Rolex / Jad Sherif, Audi and Peugeot.
Audi crossed the line with a thin lead over four Peugeots from Team Peugeot Total, Peugeot Sport and Team Oreca Matmut. The time gap of just over 13 seconds was also one of the closest in the racing series' recent history. In the LMP2 class, Greaves Motorsport won with their Zytek-Nissan, followed by Signatech Nissan and Level 5 Motorsports. The Chevrolet Corvette dominated the GTE Pro and Am classes, even beating several LMP2 cars in the process.
The 79th 24 Heures du Mans, or widely known as the 24 hours of Le Mans has been one of the most drama filled races in recent memory. Audi's McNish and Rockenfeller were involved in two separate crashes that reduced their Audi R18 TDI cars to pieces. McNish went out in the first hour after coming into contact with a slower Ferrari, skidding across the gravel trap and slamming hard into the barriers, showering journalists and track crew with fragments of the car.
Rockenfeller in the No. 1 R18 TDI hit another Ferrari at nearly full speed on the stretch leading to Indianapolis eight hours into the race. Thankfully, Allan McNish and Mike Rockenfeller were reported to be in good shape after the two incidents. With two cars out of the team, Audi had to face the barrage of Peugeots that kept piling on pressure throughout the race.
It also was a race filled with breakdowns. Out of the 56 cars that started, only 27 made it to the finish line, with 29 retiring from various faults. It was also a race filled with questionable racing tactics, with Gene in the Peugeot trying to stop the leading Audi from lapping him and Lotterer responding with a swift swerve into Gene's path.
Weather conditions were also part of the teams' troubles as drizzling rain at times made the track extremely slippery. The winning team covered 355 laps over the 24 hours, substantially less than last year’s 397 laps. The LMP1 cars had less power under the new rules this year, but the long periods behind the safety cars caused by accidents also lowered the covered distances.
An emotional Audi Motorsports' boss, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich was quoted saying, “We lost two cars over the weekend and drivers got hurt, but the Audi R18 TDI did a fantastic job under heavy pressure. Last year, the three of us finished second and we are proud we could now give Audi its tenth Le Mans victory.”
This year, the race also saw the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Mazda’s win at Le Mans, as well a party venue for Sir Jackie Stewart’s birthday. Sir Jackie Stewart who turned 72, is best known for his Formula 1 achievements and had also participated in the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans with Graham Hill (GBR), where they finished tenth overall in a experimental Rover-BRM turbine car.