|They started from pole and led most of the way for the win (L to R) McNish, Team Manager Ullrich, Kristensen and Duval|
The 81st edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be recalled for many things: the celebration of 90 years of myth and legend; a new chapter in the history book; a rewritten record; and, a stark reminder of the risk that motor sport presents. Rolex Testimonee, and now nine-time winner of the race, Tom Kristensen and his teammates Allan McNish and Loic Duval in the #2 Audi Sport Team Joest LM P1 took overall victory.
For Kristensen it was a ninth win in the race and extended the record he already held. McNish took his third Le Mans win while Duval, who put the car on pole last Wednesday, got his first LeMans win.
In GTE, Porsche prepared the way for its return to LM P1 competition in 2014 by securing its 99th and 100th class wins by taking both the Professional and Amateur classes respectively with #92 Porsche AG Team Manthey and #76 IMSA Performance Matmut. In GTE Pro, Aston Martin Racing #97 was able to acknowledge the marque’s centenary year and pay due respect to a lost teammate by fighting to the last and finishing a close third. The LM P2 class win went to the #35 Morgan – Nissan of Oak Racing.
Zytek Nissan engined cars finished first and second in the LMP2 class of the 90th anniversary Le Mans 24-hours. The OAK Racing Morgan of Bertrand Baguette, Ricardo Gonzalez and Martin Plowman led home the sister car of Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier both powered by the Zytek developed and serviced VK45DE.
|The winning LMP2 car of Baguett, Plowman and Gonzalez|
Zytek’s combination of fuel efficiency and highly effective traction control system played to the challenging conditions.
Today’s victory is the second at Le Mans for the 4.5-litre V8 engine, which has been developed and is serviced by Repton-based Zytek. In 2011 an identical power unit powered one of Zytek’s own Z11SN chassis to victory in the LMP2 class.
The race was gripping from the start as the LM P1 cars from Audi and Toyota traded places for supremacy. One by one challenges began to fall short of the exacting standard demanded. The Japanese team improved upon its 2012 performance with both cars not just finishing, but doing so in 2nd and 4th positions.
The German team took overall victory with its #2 car, plus 3rd and 5th spots. Its chance to repeat a clean sweep was dented by the relentless challenge of Toyota and more seriously its #1 car suffering mechanical problems that kept it in the pits for close on 45 minutes. Yet none of this should diminish the accomplishment of the winning drivers.
Toyota made the best tire choices to cope with the wet track conditions caused by the showers that fell during the night and reduced the gap to the Audi to two minutes, which varied depending on the intensity of the rain.
The two Toyotas showed stunning pace allied to surprising reliability as neither car ran into mechanical problems. There were more twists in the closing stages of the race. Nicolas Lapierre went off in the rain losing third place, while the no. 8 TS030 Hybrid did its best to catch the leader – but in vain!
|The Audis led from the start|
Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich remarked post-race, “This is my 15th time at Le Mans, and this race was the most difficult for the drivers, teams and those deciding strategy. It was vital to be prepared, and with everything that happened it was very, very intense.”
You can only benefit from the misfortunes of others if you yourself are fully ready. “Always expect and prepare for the unexpected,” Kristensen said before the race. Clearly the #2 drivers, mechanics and management had done so. Their car spent no time off the track or in the garage. Precise driving, efficient pit stops, effective driver changes along with adapting to the changeable weather and other distractions confirmed their R18 e-tron quattro was well primed for the contest.
Allan McNish complimented the preparation of the car, and explained their strategy was: “to be very careful, making sure [they] were clean and tidy, and did not have any extra pit-stops. Apart from one puncture it was a perfect run and you don’t get many of those, but that’s what we needed to win today.”
Some 245,000 people attended this year's running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an increase from the 240,000 spectators at the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2012 but down from 249,000 in 2011.
The 90th Anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans, did not run according to the hoped for script. Post-race celebrations have been muted and respectful. The closing words go to nine time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Kristensen, who knows better than anyone the rigors, dangers and emotions of endurance racing: “it is a dream come true winning the toughest and fastest race in the world…but we lost someone yesterday who had the same dream; so we have mixed feelings and this race is dedicated to Allan.”
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is an event that endures effortlessly. Able to captivate, to impassion and to enthuse, its legacy is ever growing and its ability to inspire teams to measure physical ability and mental capacity in a trial of man and machine is undiminished. The latest chapter in its illustrious 90-year history has now closed and becomes part of the legend.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “That was the most difficult race I’ve experienced in my 15 Le Mans years. One reason, no doubt, was having to see a young race driver from Denmark lose his life this weekend. We’re feeling with his family. But the race itself was unusual too. For 24 hours straight, our drivers had to cope with changeable weather and adjust to new conditions over and over in a very short period of time. Consequently, the team in the pits and along the pit wall didn’t have any time to rest – I can’t recall ever having experienced anything quite like this. The entire squad showed an incredible performance in an extreme situation this weekend – I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Chris Reinke (Head of LMP): “After a dramatic beginning, we had a great battle on track. Various technologies competed against each other in the most difficult weather conditions and fought an open battle all the way to the final hours. We’d expected such a race and were extremely well prepared for it – so the Audi R18 e-tron quattro deserved mounting the very top of the podium today.”
Ralf Juttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “This was the craziest Le Mans we’ve ever experienced in terms of the weather and the safety car periods. You never knew what the deal was. But it was an incredible thrilling race all the way to the end. We had an absolutely flawless car and that was enough to beat Toyota. We knew before the race that to beat such an opponent everything had to fit. With our number’2’ car, this was the case. Congratulations to Tom (Kristensen) on his ninth victory and to Allan (McNish) on his third success at Le Mans. I’m also happy about Loic (Duval) being able to celebrate his first victory here. This evokes unique emotions. ‘Thank you’ to Audi Sport and of course to my whole team, including the guys from the other two cars. They all worked hard for this success. Unfortunately, number ‘3’ had enemy contact and thus dropped back. Our number ‘1’ was even the fastest car in the field but was simply unfortunate with some damage. That goes to show that it also takes luck to win here. Congratulations to Toyota, who forced us to fight a fierce battle. That deserves respect.”
Loic Duval (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): “Le Mans is a great race that evokes so many emotions and is so tiring. Now I’ve really got to restrain myself to keep from shedding tears. It was a difficult race in which we unfortunately lost someone (Allan Simonsen). Since last year, the whole team has been giving everything and prepared an outstanding car for us. This is my first Le Mans victory – together with Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish. A really great moment in my career!”
Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): “For me, Le Mans was filled with very personal emotions this time. I’m proud to drive for the world’s best team. This applies to all team-mates, all employees in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm and for Audi Sport Team Joest. They make it possible for us to realize a dream. Now this dream has come true again – winning the fastest and toughest race under the direction of Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. Unfortunately, we lost someone yesterday (with Allan Simonsen) who had the same dream. He was a very modest and nice person. That’s why I’m experiencing highs and lows this time. With respect to my ninth victory: I’m driving with determination and the ambition my father inspired in me. He died in March. Before his death, he told me that I’d win Le Mans this year with my team-mates. I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to celebrate another victory with Loic and Allan that I can dedicate to my father. Because this Le Mans success I’m dedicating to Allan Simonsen.”
Allan McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): “Our pace was right this year. The 2013-specification Audi R18 e-tron quattro is simply very, very good. The engineers did a perfect job in the winter. We were here on the test day. Loic Duval’s lap time and the confidence that Tom Kristensen and I had in the car gave us a good feeling. That’s why for us it was about being careful and driving a clean race throughout – without additional pit stops. Except for a puncture on Tom’s stint our run was perfect for 24 hours straight. There aren’t too many races like that at Le Mans. And we had strong competition in the form of our ‘sister car’ and by Toyota.”
Lucas di Grassi (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3): “I drove at Le Mans for the first time. The track is really unique. It’s very fast and incredibly difficult to learn and to understand as well. But the atmosphere, the fans and the effort that all the teams invest into this one race are impressive. You can feel the great confidence which Audi has in us. Especially for me as a newcomer, the race wasn’t easy. But I gave my best. We even finished on the podium, which is really a great feeling. I learned a lot and would very much like to run here again in the future.”
Marc Gene (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3): “What a fantastic result for Audi. Unfortunately, our squad lost two laps at the beginning of the race due to a damaged tire valve. As a result, Oliver (Jarvis) had to complete a whole lap on three wheels. Afterward, we benefited from a safety car period to repair the car. Congratulations to our Audi winners as well as to Toyota on a great race and to my team-mates Lucas (di Grassi) and Oliver, who drove a good race in difficult conditions.”
Oliver Jarvis (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3): “The whole race was very difficult. Fortunately, my team-mates handed the car over to me in a promising position. We knew that to finish on the podium we had to give everything. And that’s exactly what we did in the final 18 hours. We watched the distance to the Toyota and knew that we’d have to be at least 1.2–1.4 seconds faster per lap to catch up to it. I always drove at the limit, which wasn’t easy as the conditions kept changing. That was very challenging because in front of a turn you never knew what was awaiting you. It was arguably the most difficult race I’ve contested so far. I’m happy about third place. But it’s also a bit frustrating that we lost two laps due to a collision. ‘Well done’ to the team of Audi’s car number ‘2.’ Tom, Loic and Allan They drove a flawless race. But I congratulate Toyota as well, who were a strong rival.”
Marcel Fassler (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): “Congratulations to the whole squad of the winning car. They had a flawless weekend, were always super-fast and therefore deserved winning. Unfortunately, we had a small technical problem that caused us to lose a lot of ground. Afterward, we attacked. The car was perfect and we really enjoyed it. We made up a bit of ground but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to be able to attack again at the very front. But that’s secondary – the most important thing is that Audi won.”
Andre Lotterer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): “This is a great day for Audi. Congratulations to the team of number two. I’m particularly happy for Loic (Duval), because he’s been a good friend of mine for a long time. I recommended him to Audi Sport and it’s fantastic that he managed to clinch this success. But the ninth Le Mans victory by Tom (Kristensen) is an impressive achievement as well. For us, the race took an unfortunate course. That was a shame because we had an absolutely fast car. Unfortunately, we lost the lead due to a technical problem. Afterward, Ben, Marcel and I gave everything again but with a twelve-lap gap, it’s very difficult to advance again to the far front. The main thing is that an Audi has won. We’ll try it again next year.”
Benoit Treluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): “This was a particularly tough 24-hour race at Le Mans this year. The entire squad did a superb job and we had an outstanding car. But to win here, simply everything’s got to fit – and it didn’t in our case this year. We were simply lacking the necessary fortune. Otherwise we could no doubt have been in contention for victory here. ‘Well done’ to the team of our sister car designated as number ‘2’ that drove a great race and clinched the well-deserved victory for Audi.”