Audi claim victory in tense Le Mans 24 Hours

Le Mans 24 Hours

Posted on

| Written by

Start, Le Mans 24 Hours, 2011

Audi won the Le Mans 24 Hours for the tenth time in 12 years following a closely-fought race.

The number two car of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer was the only Audi left in the race following two huge crashes suffered by their team mates.

The race came down to a thrilling sprint to the finish as the leading Audi and Peugeot made their final pit stops within minutes of each other.

That left Lotterer’s lead down to just seven seconds after 23-and-a-half hours of racing.

But Audi took the opportunity to put a fresh set of tyres on the car, which proved decisive over the final half-hour. Lotterer was able to extend his lead over the chasing Simon Pagenaud and take victory by the slender margin of 13 seconds after 24 hours’ racing.

It is Audi’s tenth win in 12 years at Le Mans.

The Peugeots filled second, third, fourth and fifth places having stalked the Audis all race long. They were led by Pagenaud in the car he shared with Sebastien Bourdais and Pedro Lamy.

Stephane Sarrazin, Franck Montagny and Nicolas Minassian shared the third-placed car. Anthony Davidson, Marc Gene and Alexander Wurz finished fourth, the car losing time due to repairs after Wurz crashed at Indianapolis.

The ORECA-run Peugeot 908 of Nicolas Lapierre, Loic Duval and Oliver Panis was fifth.

Audi lost two of their three cars in a pair of horrendous crashes on Saturday.

Towards the end of the first hour Allan McNish tagged the Ferrari of Anthony Beltoise and spun into the barriers at the Dunlop Curves at huge speeds. The car was extensively damaged but fortunately McNish, and the nearby photographers who were showered with debris, was unhurt.

The number one Audi crashed out in similar circumstances after night fell. Mike Rockenfeller hit the barriers at Indianapolis at very high speed, utterly destroying his R18. The safety car was out for well over two hours as hundreds of posts in the barrier had to be replaced.

Rockenfeller, mercifully, was uninjured apart from a flesh wound.

Controversy surrounded the defensive tactics of the Peugeot. On several occasions the sole remaining Audi caught one of the lapped cars and spent several laps trying to get past.

Anthony Davidson spent several laps ahead of Benoit Treluyer, eventually pulling away from the leader. Later on Marc Gene defended even more aggressively from Andre Lotterer, making contact with the Audi at the chicane at one point before letting him past.

The LMP2 category was won comfortably by the Greaves Zytek-Nissan shared by Karim Ojjeh, Tom Kimber-Smith and Olivier Lombard.

Chevrolet won the GTE Pro category with Olivier Beretta, Tommy Milner and Antonio Garcia at the wheel.

The amateur category was won by another Chevrolet, shared by Patrick Bornhauser, Julien Canal and Gabriele Gardel.

Image © Audi

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

48 comments on “Audi claim victory in tense Le Mans 24 Hours”

  1. That was the first time I’d ever attempted watching the Le Mans 24 Hours – and I don’t regret a moment (hour :P) of it! Fabulous racing, drama and controversy. The Grand Prix has a lot to live up to.

    Big thanks to Keith for running the live blog, and to everyone that helped me to understand what was happening.

    1. Did you stay up all night and watch it all! Dedication.

      1. Did you stay up all night and watch it all!

        No! But I watched about 1 third of it, which was a lot more than I thought I would. :)

        1. Just as well it’s a public holiday on Monday (today). With Le Mans and the Canadian GP on, it appears the motorsport stars have aligned for us Aussie motorsport fans.

          1. It really makes you appreciate the Queen.

    2. For me it was the 3rd time. Although I did not have much footage available save the Peugeot stream last time.

      It was well worth the effort and i am looking forward to doing it again.
      The live blog was a real treat for asking questions, sharing streams, getting updates on what i missed during ad brakes and the inevitable periods away from the screen. Great idea and thanks for hosting it Keith.

      And a what an edition of LeMans it was.

      1. Ive watched some of it before, but few hours here & there. Never the full 24hrs, but watched about 18hrs this year after being at work for the 1st hour and 4 or so hrs sleep after 12;00.

        Great race though, and to end it with 12seconds spliting the 1st & 2nd.

      2. I have seen it for the first time relatively extensively two years ago, but then like you, I did’t have a lot of tv/image, I did find radio Le Mans.

        Last year I could follow the whole race on Eurosport 1&2, even attempted to record it on dvr completely because I couldn’t see it all and needed sleep, but quickly realised I would never have time, and wasn’t going to, see the whole race after having seen the last hours, and Le Mans 24 with highlights.

        This year, I moved and thus had a different cable company, I only had Eurosport HD, but used a lot of different feeds and watched more of it – it helped that Canada doesn’t conflict, esp. with that safety car during qualifying. I only missed the end of the 2nd safety car until about 8am (yeah, most of the night). Very nice.

        Helps that my wife was away, my parents let me use the laptop while we ate together at their place, and I had some data inputting to do, so I could tell myself I didn’t just wast today in front of the screen but did something useful without getting bored :)

    3. Dito, it was far more exciting than I expected beforehand!

    4. The Sri Lankan
      12th June 2011, 23:02

      All i cared about was seeing those Toyota powered Rebellion cars taking the petrol honors. there was no way that any petrol car could take the fight t the diesels. but that was one entertaining race. no matter how much i like F1 i think Le mans is not something that should be missed. the crashes, the battles are something that F1 can only deram of nowadays

  2. 10 in 12 years! That’s consistency for you, and wasn’t one of the non-Audi years won by a Bentley – essentially a rebadged Audi!

    1. I supported Marc Gené, as he is a Ferrari driver, but between the manufacturers I supported Audi, and I’m happy they have had a success after the two potentially fatal crashes.

      1. The first crash was far more potentially fatal for about eight photographers who were standing almost underneath mcnishs airborn rotating audi. He should take a leaf out of his own stewarding book on that one.

        1. The Sri Lankan
          13th June 2011, 1:49

          HAHA now that you’ve reminded me, isn’t this the same Guy that scolded Lewis Hamilton for Monaco less than two weeks ago? he’s had a quite a good career in trashing and bashing – Suzuka, F3000…i dunno if anyone here is with me on this but MCNish needs to take a LONG and a hard look at the footage of the accident because before he can claim that he isnt in the wrong on this one. he is lucky that those photographers were unhurt

  3. The safety car was out for well over two hours

    That shocked me! I bet the crash really destroyed everything nearby, but an F1 race lasts less than this SC period!

    1. By both the McNish and Rockenfeller some guardrail was destroyed. Repairing took some time and of course, you can’t race when that’s going on.

    2. Just imagine having to clear all the debris and repair that fence in the dark though!

  4. Looks like I missed the best bits then. In reality the Audi victory was secured for the last hour but they couldn’t afford any mistake which made it interesting. Will have to give this a proper shot next year.

    1. The Sri Lankan
      12th June 2011, 23:37

      GOTO YOUTUBE and search for channel MT89MOTORSPORTS2. you will get the highlights there

  5. Amazing race! R18 is definitely faster but in the race Peugeot also did very well. Only thing I’m disappointed is final wheel to wheel battle. I know it’s not LM style but…anyway good fight. Congratulations Audi! after 2 disastrous accident shining victory. I hope more tight battle between them!

  6. Turely amazing race till the last it was not clear who will be the winner

    Loved it

    one of the best races I have seen over the time

  7. The McNish crash was terrifying, especially the debris flying towards spectator areas. It would have been particularly awful for McNish, with flashbacks to his F3000 crash at Donington in 1990 which killed a spectator and left him unconscious for three days.

  8. Mark Hitchcock
    12th June 2011, 15:34

    Are there any photos of Rockenfeller’s Audi after the crash?


      The I think remains of the chassis the box “safety car” and the ambulence.

      1. Mark Hitchcock
        12th June 2011, 15:54

        It’s amazing that he managed to get out of that relatively unhurt.
        Everyone’s been very lucky this weekend in that respect.

    2. I can’t find any but I think they’d be pointless anyway as it really looked like there was almost nothing left of it.

      1. I reckon it would have been worse than McNish’s crash, just it didn’t endanger the marshals as much.

      1. That really shows that the survival cell and the rest of the car did the work they are supposed to do on an impact, but it shouldn’t be much harder. And maybe they and FIA need to look at better ways of keeping wheels/tyres attached.

        1. The spot where Rockenfeller had his crash was at a kink at the fastest part of the track in the run to Indianapolis…it would’ve been at well over 200mph – judging from the violence of the 2 Audi crashes no wheel tethers could possibly have kept those parts on – instead, the car did exactly what it was supposed to do and the body came apart around the monocoque, which survived to protect the driver.

  9. I cant believe no-one was hurt in the McNish accident, that was crazy. Unfortunately I was limited to radio for most of the race as my net is pants (got a few hours of espn after midnight), the commentators got into a right argument about blue flags :D, here’s some crash videos:

    McNish -
    Rocky –
    Gene defending –

  10. First time I’ve watched any of Le Mans 24 too.

    By complete chance I tuned in just as night was breaking away and Ant Davidson was all over the back of the Audi for the race lead.

    Then ended up hooked to the screen for the next five hours before I passed out from exhaustion…

    Captivating racing watching the in-car footage of those prototype cars, and oh so strange to hear the diesel engines knocking away.

    At times they looked so much faster than F1 cars do, but I suppose that is mainly due to the track characteristics, i.e. narrow with road markings everywhere to enhance the sense of speed.

    I’ll be tuning in next year for sure.

    1. I think that their lack of open wheels also makes them less draggy – yes, they are heavier, with less fuel and a less powerful engine, but on the long straight they are really very fast, but I do think they loose out in the breaking and tight corners.

      1. On the more technical side of things, it looks like the ACO’s mandated shark fins – ugly as they may be – served to keep McNish’s R18 from catching some air when the car slid sideways towards the barriers. If it’d taken off like some LMP crashes we’ve seen in the past, those photographers may not have been so lucky.

  11. I had to follow most of the race on live timing, but even that was exciting.

    Amazing how people can survive crashes like that. I recently saw a clip of (I think a BBC documentary) about the deaths in F1 in the old days. They were remarking that the spectators were appauding when a driver managed to crawl out of a wreckage unhurt. That it was part of the contest to survive crashes.

    In that light it was weird to see them do the same thing when McNish was walking away from his wrecked car. Never realized people (still) do that.

    1. I probably got the link from here, but I was talking about this:
      Youtube: BBC “Grand Prix – The Killer Years”

    2. Really? In F1 the crowds applaud when drivers get out of a crash- or are being transported away.

    3. i don’t think i’ve seen any motorsport where speccies don’t applaud when the occupant(s) get out of the vehicle after a heavy impact.

  12. Also worth mentioning is the valiant effort of Robertson Racing to reach the GTE-Am podium with their Doran-built Ford GT. As a small, independent outfit (owners-drivers are husband and wife!) without any form of factory support, it’s a remarkable achievement for them on their first outing at Le Mans.

    1. on their wedding anniversary, as well!

  13. Truly a testament to the strength and depth of Audi from the top down starting with Dr. Ulrich. Astonishing result for a team that redesigned its LMP1 car…Codesurge, excellent point! As a privateer going up against factory works teams, Robertson probably pulled off one of the bigger “victories” in recent years brining that GT to the podium…well done.

  14. I came out from behind the lurker’s bush thanks to this year’s edition of Le Mans. Quite funny as I’m definitely an F1 girl.

    It was an amazing race with lots of coups de théâtre as we like to say over here… And I thought the Live Blog session was a delight. You could go to bed, get some rest, get up again and simply ask what had happened and get a straight answer from a fellow F1Fanatic (because the live stream/TV commentary was not going to help you get up to date easily).

    Just a shame I had to do my Good Girl duties three hours away from the final lap. Sigh…

    1. Well, Le Man is only on once a year and i try to make a special effort to watch it. Like yourself im more of an F1 fan (but il watch lots of different racing types casually). But Le Man is something special, the test of racing 24hrs straight is something to be admired, and this year was a 24hr sprint by Audi/Peugeot, and i think the Audi TV advert with Allan McNish says that the 1 Le Man race pretty much covers a whole F1 season in distance. Incredible, and to think the ACO actually try to slow this years cars down from last year…

  15. @patrickl, thanks for that link. I try and explain to the Mrs the IMMENSE danger that was/is such a big part of GP racing. Since She is an avid enthusiast (I made her sorta…, like a Vampire does) I really wanted her to see some of the old footage that I don’t have. I also made sure to show her the two Audi shunts, and to remind ( to Her great relief ) of the safety of a modern monocoque. I would have liked to see Bordais get the win, but oh well. I bet 85% of a lap full throttle and that insanely long straight are a blast to drive!

  16. Hands down that audi is the best looking racing car in motorsport at the mo, possibly one of the best ever, complete stunner.

    Any more pictures Keith?

  17. Amazed so many were as crazy as me watching or following nearly all this year’s Le Mans. Thanks to Eurosport 1(HD) & 2, I managed to see around 17 of the 24 hrs. Quite the most fantastic race but Peugeot should really have won it, after all it was 3 against one. Audi outdrove them, outsmarted them and had a better car. My only regret was the lack of authentic sounds. Great pictures, phenomenal speeds through the sweeping curves but seemed like slot racing at times. One of these years I must take a week out of my routine and be there for the live action but with an I-Pad under arm to keep in touch. To round off the day an amazing Canadian GP made special by Schumacher’s wake up and Button’s speed to win at the last corner. Quite incredible…….

  18. Audi and peugeot are so close to each other and there is no telling who going to win until the finish line.

  19. Audi and peugeots are so close to each other and there is no telling who going to win until the finish line.

Comments are closed.