However overshadowed by the death of the Danish driver Allan Simonsen during the opening stage of the 90th anniversary of the 24 hours of Le Mans, fellow countryman Tom Kristensen won with his teammates Allan McNish and Loïc Duval the prestigious race a day later. The hybrid Audi R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 car was victorious once again.
The twelfth triumph for the four rings at Le Mans was one of the most difficult and hardest-fought ones. Following a change in the regulations that was made at short notice, the three Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars on average were able to do two laps less on one tank filling than their main rival Toyota. The Audi drivers had to compensate for the additional pit stops by faster lap times on track – and did so in weather conditions that at times were extremely difficult.
Rain showers crossed the track again and again during the dramatic race. They resulted in numerous incidents and a total of eleven safety car deployments. The field ran for more than five hours under ‘yellow’ while the track was cleared and repairs were performed.
The three Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars, which are equipped with an electrically driven front axle, were the fastest vehicles in the field throughout the entire race – as well as the most efficient ones: Victory in the Michelin Green X Challenge, a competition of the cleanest, fastest and most efficient prototypes, went to Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm as well.
The two Toyota’s TS030 Hybrid were well underway throughout the race. The number 8 car lost only some time during two fuel stops when the safety car came out and driver Stéphane Sarrazin had to wait at the end of the pit lane until he could rejoin. Together with Sébastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson, the Toyota was brought home in second place, just one lap down to the race winner. The number 7 car suffered some minor technical issues and slow punctures and battled for third with another Audi, before the Toyota went off track. The mechanics managed to perform the necessary repairs and the second Toyota finished in fourth place.
The runner-up spot equals Toyota’s best finish at Le Mans as the TS030 Hybrid matched the results of the TS010 (1992), 94C-V (1994) and TS020 (1999).
Next year might be even more spectacular as Porsche recently announced its comeback to world’s most important endurance race with a hybrid car. Also Nissan is preparing a ‘electric LMP1 car‘ an races under the flag of ‘Garage 56’, a reserved spot for experimental prototypes.