Sunday, June 12, 2011

24 Hours Of Le Mans

Team Audi lost two of is R18 TDIs to crashes, but its remaining car passed Peugeot to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans marathon race in France today.
The top U.S. car was Corvette #73 -- driven by Olivier Beretta, Tommy Milner and Antonio Garcia -- completed 314 laps in the 24 hours to finish 11th overall and first in the GTE Pro class. The 'Vette finished in the class 2 minutes and 29 seconds ahead of the runner-up Ferrari. It was the 7th class win at Le Mans for Corvette Racing and its first in GTE Pro.
The Audi #2 car -- driven by Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer -- finished 355 laps for the overall win. That gave Audi its 10th Le Mans title and another with a diesel -- Audi did it first in 2006. Audis 10 Le Mans wins put it second among makers, behind Porsche's 16 and Ferrari's 9.
The Audi winner had won the pole position and finished 355 laps in the 24 hours of the race, beating Peugeot #9 -- driven by Simon Pagenaud, Pedro Lamy and Sebastien Bourdais -- by 13.854 seconds.
"It's absolutely fantastic to win like this," Treluyer told the Associated Press. "You need good opponents to have a great victory. With Peugeot, we had rivals who were really strong."
Peugeots also finished third (2 laps back) and fourth (4 laps back), much better than last year when Audi finished 1-2-3 and no Peugeot finished.
"Last year, we had some problems with the car in terms of speed," Treluyer told France 2 television. "We had a very reliable car (...) but we lacked a bit of speed. The goal this year was to get a faster car without losing reliability. And we made it."
The third- and fourth-place Peugeots had passed the winning Audi overnight but crashes of the Lola-Toyota #13 and Ferrari #59 cars brought out the safety car in the 15th and 16th hours and the Audi closed on them.
In the 19th hour, Lotterer clocked the fastest lap in 3 minutes, 25.289 seconds on the 13.6K circuit to build a lead.
More details from the AP:
Audi #2 managed to adapt to the weather and keep its lead when rain started in the 21st hour, forcing drivers to switch tires.
Peugeot #9 was slower than the Audi, but the French team had a strategy based on lower fuel consumption. But although the Peugeot made only 28 pit stops compared to the winning Audi's 31, it wasn't enough to make up for the Audi's greater speed.
Lotterer and Pagenaud made their last pit stops at the same time, but Audi#2 came out of the pits ahead of of them to keep the lead.
"We were beaten by a competitor stronger than us," Bourdais told LeMans race's website. "Audi has developed a highly reliable and fast car. We chose to work on reliability. The objective is met, but we missed by 13 seconds at the finish."
The surviving Audi, after the crashes left it the lone Audi on the track, was under heavy pressure from three Peugeots throughout today.
Defending champion Mike Rockenfeller's Audi #1 was in second place in his Audi in the eighth hour when he tried to pass the slower Ferrari #71 driven by Robert Kauffman. He was bumped by the Ferrari and slid in darkness to smash into a guardrail. He was able to get out before the car caught fire and had cuts and grazes.
Allan McNish's Audi #3 also had collided with a Ferrari barely 50 minutes into the race. He was in second place and trying to pass the slower Ferrari #58 driven by Anthony Beltoise -- who already trailing by two laps -- when they came together and the Audi disintegrated against a tire wall in a spectacular crash. McNish was unhurt.
"There are unfortunately those two racing incidents that have dealt a blow to Audi," Treluyer said. "I spare a thought for (Rockenfeller) who is at the hospital. I'm really sorry for him. I really wish he could be here. All the drivers took part in the development of the car. So it's a victory of the whole team and not just our victory."
A total of 56 cars started the 79th edition of the French endurance race, but 28 did not finish.

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