LE MANS, France — Porsche was fastest during practice. Toyota won the pole, but at the end of 24 hours at the famed Sarthe Circuit, Audi earned its 13th 24 Hours of Le Mans victory in the past 15 years.
Co-drivers Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer shared the winning Audi R-18 e-tron diesel for the third time in the past four years, with the winning No. 2 entry completing 379 laps, or 3,0214.678 miles.
“It was a really tough one. It was an incredible race,” said Fassler. “There as always some pressure. There were a lot of up and downs. With the new technology it was a big challenge for everyone, but we made it. It’s a big accomplishment.”
The No. 1 Audi, which was crashed during the opening practice by Loic Duvall, and completely rebuilt, came home second, three laps behind, with Lucas DiGrassi, Tom Kristensen and Marc Gene, who subbed for Duvall, sharing the wheel.
Taking third, five laps behind the winners was the No 8 Toyota TS 040 Hybrid with Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sebastien Buemi.
The Jota Sport Oreca O3R-Nissan came home first in the LMP 2 class with drivers Simon Dolan, Harry Tincknell and Oliver Turvey sharing the cockpit during the 82nd running of the historic event.
The GTE Am winners were the No. 95 Aston Martin crew of Danish drivers Kristian Poulsen, Nicki Thim and David Heinemeier posting an emotional victory in the race where their countryman Allan Simonsen was killed last year.
Finally the GTE-Pro victory went to the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia driven by Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella.
Porsche enjoyed its moment at the front of the race as both Audis suffered turbocharger issues on Sunday morning. Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber’s Porsche Team #20 led the two chasing Audi cars for a near two hours. Then problems struck. With a little under two hours remaining, #20 suffered a sudden engine issue and was forced to retire. Within minutes its sister car Porsche Team #14 also returned to the garage only reappearing shortly before the finish.
It was left to Audi to close out the race, its two cars had exchanged positions throughout Sunday morning.
“We thought it was over and almost impossible to recover. The turbo is part of the car which never breaks,” admitted Lotterer. “It was a great course for the fans and for us too. It’s the first edition with the new car and a great victory for Audi,” said Fässler.
For Tom Kristensen, nine-time winner and Rolex Testimonee, there was no tenth victory but given the issues Audi No. 2 had to deal with in the 72 hours before the race: constructing a new car, replacing a co-driver and starting seventh on the grid, second place is a commendable achievement.
“The rain at the beginning of the race was a real challenge,” explained Kristensen. “Everyone can be very happy following an eventful race at a very high level across all categories. A lot of teams have produced a very spectacular race.”