Audi wins 24 hours of Le Mans
André Lotterer and Marcel Fassler (Associated Press)
Le Mans - Audi overcame two crashes to hold off pressure from a charging Peugeot and win the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday.
André Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer drove the Audi No 2 to victory, giving the German manufacturer a 10th title at Le Mans.
Audi moved into sole possession of second place for most victories at the world's most famous endurance race. Porsche holds the record with 16 titles. Ferrari dropped to third with nine.
Audi No 2 completed 355 laps in 24 hours, leading the Peugeot No 9 driven by Simon Pagenaud, Pedro Lamy and Sebastien Bourdais by 13.854 seconds.
Stephane Sarrazin, Franck Montagny and Nicolas Minassian finished third in their Peugeot No 8, two laps back.
Peugeot No 7 driven by Marc Gene, Anthony Davidson and Alexander Wurz came in fourth, four laps off the pace.
The Peugeots No 7 and No 9 had overtaken the Audi No 2 overnight but crashes of the Lola-Toyota No 13 and Ferrari No 59 brought out the safety car in the 15th and 16th hours and helped the Audi make up ground.
In the 19th hour, Lotterer clocked the fastest lap in 3 minutes, 25.289 seconds on the 13.6-km circuit to build a significant lead.
Audi No 2 managed to adapt to changing conditions when rain started in the 21st hour, forcing drivers to switch tires.
Peugeot No 9 was slower than Audi No 2, but the French manufacturer had a strategy based around the lower fuel consumption of their cars.
Although Peugeot No 9 made only 28 pit stops compared to 31 for the Audi No 2, the speed differential was significant enough to give victory to the German manufacturer.
Lotterer and Pagenaud made their last pit stops at the same time, but Audi No 2 came out of the pits ahead of Peugeot No 9 to keep the lead.
Audi No 2 was under heavy pressure from three Peugeots throughout Sunday as Audi's chances of defending their title came to rest on just one car after two crashed out Saturday.
Defending champion Mike Rockenfeller was in second place in the eighth hour when he tried to pass the slower Ferrari No 71 driven by Robert Kauffman.
Rockenfeller's Audi No 1 was bumped by the Ferrari and slid off the track in darkness to smash into a guardrail, forcing the deployment of the safety car for the second time in the race.
The German driver was able to get out of the cockpit on his own before the wrecked car caught fire. He picked up cuts and grazes in the incident but was otherwise unhurt.
Audi also lost a car when Allan McNish's Audi No 3 collided with a Ferrari barely 50 minutes after the start.
McNish, in second place, was attempting to overtake the slower Ferrari No 58 driven by Anthony Beltoise - who was trailing by two laps - when the cars came together resulting in the Audi crashing against a tire wall and disintegrating.
The spectacular crash brought out the safety car to allow crews to clear the debris.
McNish was unhurt and walked away from the crash. The Scottish driver was taken to a medical center as a precaution and then to a hospital for more checks.
Results on Sunday from the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the 13.629-km Circuit de la Sarthe (with driver, country, car, laps completed):
1. Marcel Fassler, Switzerland; André Lotterer, Germany; Benoit Treluyer, France; Audi No. 2, 355 laps.
2. Sebastien Bourdais, France; Simon Pagenaud, France; Pedro Lamy, Portugal; Peugeot No. 9, 13.854 seconds behind.
3. Stephane Sarrazin, France; Franck Montagny, France; Nicolas Minassian, France; Peugeot No. 8, two laps behind.
4. Anthony Davidson, Britain; Marc Gene, Spain; Alexander Wurz, Austria; Peugeot No. 7, four laps behind.
5. Nicolas Lapierre, France; Loic Duval, France; Olivier Panis, France; Oreca-Peugeot No. 10, 16 laps behind.
6. Nicolas Prost, France; Neel Jani, Switzerland; Jeroen Bleekemolen, Netherlands; Lola-Toyota No. 12, 17 laps behind.
7. Vanina Ickx, Belgium; Maxime Martin, Belgium; Bas Leinders, Belgium; Lola-Aston Martin No. 22, 27 laps behind.
8. Karim Ojjeh, Saudi Arabia; Thomas Kimber-Smith, Britain; Olivier Lombard, France; Zytek-Nissan No. 41, 29 laps behind.
9. Franck Mailleux, France; Lucas Ordonez, Spain; Soheil Ayari, France; Oreca-Nissan No. 26, 35 laps behind.
10. Scott Tucker, United States; Christophe Bouchut, France; Joao Barbosa, Portugal; Lola-Honda No. 33, 36 laps behind.