At one of the most thrilling and dramatic 24-hour races in Le Mans history Audi-ultra-lightweight technology has prevailed. At the fascinating thriller which kept 250,000 spectators at the race track and millions in front of their TV sets watching in awe, Marcel Fässler (Switzerland), André Lotterer (Germany) and Benoît Tréluyer (France) in the innovative Audi R18 TDI clinched the tenth Le Mans victory in total for the brand with the four rings.
The drama at the 79th edition of the world’s most famous endurance could hardly be surpassed. After Audi had lost two of its Audi R18 TDI cars as early as in the first third of the race due to accidents all hopes were pinned on car number “2” that had secured the pole position in qualifying for Audi. For 16 hours Fässler, Lotterer and Tréluyer were on their own in the battle against three factory-fielded Peugeot cars that left no stone unturned to keep Audi from taking victory.
And Fässler, Lotterer and Tréluyer continually brought the performance advantage of their diesel sports car to bear which in the first year of the engine downsizing was clearly the fastest car in the field at Le Mans. At 3m 25.289s André Lotterer on the 229th race lap even managed to beat the fastest time set in qualifying.
After 24 hours Lotterer crossed the finish line being frenetically cheered by his team colleagues Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer and the entire Audi squad in first place with a lead of 13.420 seconds.
"It was a very intensive race. I was pushing like crazy from the first to the last minute. I felt no boredom in the car. I gave everything that was possible. And I had no choice but to do that either. In the end it worked out. I’m simply happy that together we’ve managed to do this. All the mechanics and everyone else worked so hard to prepare the car. This is a great reward for many hours of overtime. Due to the two accidents yesterday was a difficult day for Audi Sport. I’m very happy that Allan (McNish) and Rocky are okay and that despite the accidents we’ve got a reason for joy.” André Lotterer commented.
Allan McNish and Mike Rockenfeller sustained no injuries in extremely severe accidents in the first third of the race. McNish in the Audi R18 TDI designated as car number “3” spun off the track when a GT car hit his left rear wheel, hit the track barrier in a heavy impact and rolled over. Mike Rockenfeller had an even greater guardian angel when he was also touched by a GT vehicle at a speed of about 300 km/h. The Audi R18 TDI hit the guard rails at 270 km/h. Protected by the Audi R18 TDI’s one-piece carbon fiber monocoque, front crash absorber and other passive safety devices both Rockenfeller and McNish were able to climb out of the wreckages uninjured.
“The safety standards at Audi are simply incredible and have saved my life,” said Mike Rockenfeller. “It was a fantastic triumph of Audi ultra-lightweight technology in extreme conditions,“ commented Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Management Board of AUDI AG. “We not only had the most reliable but also the quickest car this year.”