The hybrid LMP1-cars proved to be the vehicles to beat during the 24 hours race at Le Mans. Audi won with its R18 e-tron quattro the 80th edition of world’s most famous endurance race. Another Audi hybrid finished second in front of the Audi R18 Ultra, the regular diesel powered car. Both Toyota RS030 hybrids did not see the finish flags. One suffered a major accident, the other an engine failure.

The two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars were dominant. The German make only had to relinquish the leading position to one of the two Toyota hybrid vehicles once for a few laps on Saturday night. After the early retirements of their fiercest rivals the two R18 e-tron quattro cars fought a thrilling duel for victory throughout the night until noon on Sunday during which the lead changed several times and the two diesel hybrid sports cars were often separated by just a few seconds.

An accident by Allan McNish in the fast Porsche corners less than three hours before the finish caused the preliminary decision. Audi Sport Team Joest managed to repair the heavy damage at the front of the R18 e-tron quattro in record time and to thus save second place. In the early phase, car number “2″ had lost nearly a lap after a massive piece of rubber pick-up had gotten stuck in the area of the rear suspension.

“This was a race of the kind you can arguably experience only at Le Mans,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich after his four Audi R18 cars had crossed the finish line. “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. On the whole, I can only take my hat off to the entire squad of Audi Sport that worked extremely hard for a year to make this triumph possible. It was a very big challenge to develop a hybrid car in such a short time that is quick and able to hold up for 24 hours. 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.”

Toyota: thrilling highs and extreme lows
An impressive start to the team’s first race saw the TS030 Hybrids fighting at the front, reaching a pinnacle when Nicolas Lapierre, sharing the #7 with Alex Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima, took the lead as the six-hour mark approached.

However, the team’s joy at seeing its super capacitor-based hybrid powertrain lead the field was ended only seconds later due to a heavy accident for Anthony Davidson in the #8 he drove alongside Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi. He was hit by a lapped car and suffered heavy impact with the tyre barriers at Mulsanne Corner, which comes at the end of the Mulsanne Straight when cars reach a top speed of more than 330km/h. After getting out of the car on his own, he was taken to the circuit medical centre suffering from shock and back pain. Despite no obvious injuries, he was taken to hospital for checks which revealed breaks to his T11 and T12 vertebrae. Those injuries are expected to heal fully in approximately three months.

A safety car period followed that incident and, when the green flags waved, Kazuki fought for the lead. However he was also unlucky with lapped traffic and made contact with another car, causing a puncture and rear bodywork damage. That began a challenging period for the team, with several problems losing the #7 significant time in the pits as the crew worked hard to achieve the target of taking the chequered flag. However, an engine failure after 10-and-a-half hours forced the difficult decision to retire the #7 and end Toyota Racing’s first race prematurely.

“Right now our emotion is one of sadness. Our best wishes are with Anthony, who is a fantastic colleague and a positive force in our team. We strongly hope he recovers very soon and we’re sorry we could not provide a result to cheer him up from the #7 car, which suffered firstly an alternator problem and then an engine failure”, says Team President Yoshiaki Kinoshita. “After all the hard work to get to this point, it really hurts to see both cars retire early. But in the next days we will look back on the first six hours of the race and feel great pride that we could lead Le Mans in our very first race. That is a remarkable achievement with such pioneering technology and this motivates us to push harder than ever to bring home some trophies in the remainder of the season.”

Result: 24 hours race of Le Mans 2012

Pos Car Drivers Class Laps Gap

1. #1  Audi       Lotterer/Fassler/Treluyer    LMP1   378

2. #2  Audi       McNish/Capello/Kristensen    LMP1   377   +     1 Lap

3. #4  Audi       Jarvis/Bonanomi/Rockenfeller LMP1   375   +    3 Laps

4. #12 Lola       Prost/Heidfeld/Jani          LMP1   367   +   11 Laps

5. #3  Audi       Gene/Dumas/Duval             LMP1   366   +   12 Laps

6. #22 HPD        Brabham/Dumbreck/Chandhok    LMP1   357   +   21 Laps

7. #44 HPD        Potolicchio/Dalziel/K-Smith  LMP2   354   +   24 Laps

8. #46 Oreca      Thiriet/Beche/Tinseau        LMP2   353   +   25 Laps

9. #49 Oreca      Perez Companc/Kaffer/Ayari   LMP2   352   +   26 Laps

10. #26 Oreca      Ragues/Panciatici/Rusinov    LMP2   351   +   27 Laps

11. #13 Lola       Belicchi/Bleekemolen/Primat  LMP1   350   +   28 Laps

12. #41 Zytek      Zugel/Julian/Gonzalez        LMP2   348   +   30 Laps

13. #25 Oreca      Martin/Charouz/Graves        LMP2   346   +   32 Laps

14. #35 Morgan     H Hansson/Leinders/Martin    LMP2   341   +   37 Laps

15. #42 Zytek      Brundle/Brundle/Ordonez      LMP2   340   +   38 Laps

16. #23 Oreca      Tresson/Mailleux/Lombard     LMP2   340   + 2m47.469s

17. #51 Ferrari    Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander    GTEP   336   +   42 Laps

18. #59 Ferrari    Makowiecki/Melo/Farnbacher   GTEP   333   +   45 Laps

19. #97 Aston      Mucke/Fernandez/Turner       GTEP   332   +   46 Laps

20. #50 Corvette   Bornhauser/Canal/Lamy        GTEA   329   +   49 Laps

21. #67 Porsche    Pons/Armindo/Narac           GTEA   328   +   50 Laps

22. #71 Ferrari    Bertolini/Beretta/Cioci      GTEP   326   +   52 Laps

23. #73 Corvette   Garcia/Magnussen/Taylor      GTEP   326   + 3m10.910s

24. #45 Oreca      Briere/Nakano/Petersen       LMP2   325   +   53 Laps

25. #57 Ferrari    Krohn/Jonsson/Rugolo         GTEA   323   +   55 Laps

26. #40 Oreca      Frey/Hirschi/Meichtry        LMP2   320   +   58 Laps

27. #79 Porsche    Neiman/Pumpelly/Pilet        GTEA   313   +   65 Laps

28. #70 Corvette   Bourret/Gibon/Belloc         GTEA   309   +   69 Laps

29. #43 Norma      Rosier/Haezebrouck/Thirion   LMP2   308   +   70 Laps

30. #21 HPD        Leventis/Kane/Watts          LMP1   303   +   75 Laps

31. #61 Ferrari    Kauffman/Aguas/Vickers       GTEA   294   +   84 Laps

32. #83 Ferrari    Rodrigues/Illiano/Ferte      GTEA   292   +   86 Laps

33. #55 Porsche    Daniels/Palttala/Camathias   GTEA   290   +   88 Laps

34. #74 Corvette   Gavin/Westbrook/Milner       GTEP   215   +  163 Laps

35. #17 Dome       Minassian/Bourdais/Ara       LMP1   202   +  176 Laps

36. #38 Zytek      Hancock/Dolan/Kurosawa       LMP2   271   Retired

37. #33 HPD        Tucker/Bouchut/Diaz          LMP2   240   Retired

38. #30 Lola       Sims/Buurman/Iannetta        LMP2   239   Retired

39. #88 Porsche    Ried/Roda/Ruberti            GTEA   222   Retired

40. #15 OAK        Montagny/Kraihamer/Baguette  LMP1   219   Retired

41. #66 Ferrari    Walker/Cocker/Wills          GTEP   204   Retired

42. #48 Oreca      Firth/Hartley/Hughes         LMP2   196   Retired

43. #77 Porsche    Lietz/Lieb/Henzler           GTEP   184   Retired

44. #75 Porsche    al Faisal/Curtis/Edwards     GTEA   180   Retired

45. #31 Lola       Holzer/Schultis/Moro         LMP2   155   Retired

46. #58 Ferrari    Ehret/Jeannette/Montecalvo   GTEA   146   Retired

47. #24 Morgan     Nicolet/Lahaye/Pla           LMP2   139   Retired

48. #7  Toyota     Wurz/Lapierre/Nakajima       LMP1   134   Retired

49. #80 Porsche    Bergmeister/Long/Holzer      GTEP   114   Retired

50. #28 Lola       Giroix/Badey/Johansson       LMP2   92    Retired

51. #8  Toyota     Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin      LMP1   82    Retired

52. #0  DeltaWing  Franchitti/Krumm/Motoyama    CDNT   75    Retired

53. #81 Ferrari    Perazzini/Cadei/Griffin      GTEA   70    Retired

54. #99 Aston      Nygaard/Poulsen/Simonsen     GTEA   31    Retired

55. #16 Pescarolo  Collard/Bouillon/Hall        LMP1   20    Retired

56. #29 Lola       Ihara/Deletraz/Rostan        LMP2   17    Retired

About The Author

Tim is currently working in international motorsports and found his passion for sustainable racing by joining world's first competition for hydrogen electric vehicles in 2008. He does not doubt on the possibility of a break through of electric racing. And that deserves a platform to keep up to date and to interact. Let's get electrified!

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