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Audi wins Le Mans in hybrid racer first
Audi has triumphed at Le Mans for the 11th time and taken first, second, third and fifth places – with the first two positions being snared by a futuristic hybrid racer in an historic race victory.
The Audi R18 e-tron quattro won on its debut at the famous French race, despite tough competition from Toyota which also fielded a hybrid racer.
Toyota is famous for its hybrid road cars but the technology wasn’t to earn it Le Mans success, with both Toyota TS030 failing to finish despite proving more than a match for the Audis on raw pace.
The most dramatic Toyota retirement was that of Brit star Anthony Davidson, who was hit while lapping a Ferrari backmarker, which sent his car into a dramatic flip.
Davidson was able to exit the car but a later checkup in hospital revealed a broken back.
The competition for the top spot was thus between the Audi racers: there were four Audi R18 cars in contention, two hybrid e-tron motors and two of the all-conquering diesel machines.
In the end, the e-tron hybrid cars drew clear, with another Brit, two-times Le Mans winner Allan McNish chasing down the lead car when in second place. Unfortunately, a minor off saw him lose four minutes in the pits with repairs, meaning he was destined for second place.
The fourth-place diesel R18 was also in the wars with a hefty-looking impact. Brilliant work by the Audi pit crew fixed the car though, enduring it lost just one place.
The win for Audi is also a win for Williams, the British Formula 1 team. It supplied the hybrid technology behind the green-focused technology, which allowed the lead two Audis to recoup braking energy and use this to give a ‘free’ power boost. Well, not quite free: the rules forced them to run smaller fuel tanks, but even this proved no hindrance.
More British success came in the LMP2 category, with Tom Kimber-Smith winning the class and also scoring seventh place overall.
Former F1 driver and Sky F1 commentator Martin Brundle raced alongside his son and Nissan PlayStation gamer-turned-racer Lucas Ordonez, and came in 15th overall.
“This was a race of the kind you can arguably experience only at Le Mans,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich.
“You should never rejoice too early at Le Mans, which was obvious again especially on Sunday noon. The whole world was already talking about a one-two-three-four victory and all of a sudden two of our cars had accidents almost simultaneously.
“That the squad repeatedly managed to repair the cars so quickly after the slips clearly speaks for Audi Sport Team Joest that can simply be banked on at Le Mans.
“The fact that, as in 2001 with the TFSI engine and in 2006 with the TDI, we managed to be successful right on the first run simply proves the level of technological expertise that is available at Audi.
“This is a great day for Audi Sport, for Audi and for the e-tron quattro.”
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