/ Motorsport

Audi victorious in Le Mans 24 Hour

Updated: Sunday, 15 Jun 2014 14:33 | Comments

Swiss driver Marcel Fassler in his Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro Hybrid N°2
Swiss driver Marcel Fassler in his Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro Hybrid N°2

Audi stayed the course to secure a one-two finish in a thrilling Le Mans 24 Hour race which saw all three main rivals suffer setbacks as they appeared to be in line to claim victory at different stages.

Heading into the weekend slower than Toyota and with the threat of the returning Porsche marque, Audi will have been delighted to secure their 12th victory at Le Mans in the last 14 years as the trio of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer took the win - three laps ahead of their sister number one car.

Toyota had to settle for third as a great recovery drive from Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Nicolas Lapierre following an early shunt earned them a place on the podium.

It could have been very different had the sister Toyota, the frontrunner over the first half of the race, not suffered an electrical fault whilst out in front as the sun began to rise over the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Porsche, too, found themselves in the mix as the hours ticked on but their own issues meant it was the dominant Audi team who were once again celebrating from the top step.

Alexander Wurz led away from pole position for Toyota and, along with co-drivers Stephane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima, opened up a commanding lead on the rest of the field throughout the night until an electrical issue saw the car roll to a halt with 10 hours remaining.

The number one Audi car was soon heading the field with a sizeable gap back to the number 20 Porsche but, with nine-time winner Tom Kristensen seemingly cruising to a 10th success, he was forced to pit to change a faulty turbocharger.

Kristensen's 17-minute pit-stop saw Timo Bernhard in the Porsche reel in his advantage before taking over the lead of the race with Lotterer moving second with a little over three and an half hours left on the clock.

With both of their rivals having missed out on a chance to secure victory when in the lead, Porsche now had the chance to pick up an unlikely win.

Just finishing the race would have been seen as a success for the German manufacturer, who were making their first appearance at Le Mans since 1998 but their stint at the front did not last.

Firstly, there was not enough pace in the Porsche to stave off the marauding number two Audi as a series of quick laps from Lotterer ate into Bernhard's lead and eventually saw them overhaul their long-standing adversaries.

But then it was reliability, always likely to be the Achilles heel of a team who have not raced here under current specifications, that played its part.

Mark Webber replaced Bernhard but the ex-Red Bull Formula One driver was helpless as he was left coasting around the circuit with less than two hours remaining.

Once in the pits, the Porsche did not return and the sister car, piloted by Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb, soon followed suit, returning with just three minutes remaining to secure 11th place, one spot ahead of their stricken number 20 car.

Toyota's sole remaining entry managed to seal third place despite a crash early into the race as the challenge from Davidson, Buemi and Lapierre was stunted after less than two hours when rain on the circuit led to a collision between their car and the third Audi.

Lapierre appeared to spin the Toyota by himself and tagged Marco Bonanomi on his way into the wall, whilst almost simultaneously the Audi was smashed into by Sam Bird's AF Corse Ferrari who had nowhere to go to avoid an accident.

With the help of the marshals, Lapierre managed to turn his car in the right direction and made it back to the pits - already two laps behind Wurz, but Bonanomi was left visibly distraught as the Audi was deemed to be beyond repair.

A strong showing after the incident was enough for the trio who had won the previous two rounds of the World Endurance Championship heading to Le Mans to bring their car home third in the showpiece event.

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