In what turned out to be a severely hotly-contested race, Audi prevailed in a one-two victory in the 82nd running of the world’s most prominent endurance race — the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team’s performance in front of 300,000 spectators marked the 13th Le Mans success for the Four Rings of a total of 16 runs, with the 2014 competition possibly being the most valuable given the tough competition from Toyota and Le Mans returnee Porsche.
“We’ve seen many exciting races and celebrated great victories at Le Mans but this success has a very special significance,” said Professor Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, following the triumphant finish by the two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars. “We didn’t enter this race as favorites and in Porsche and Toyota had two very strong rivals. That we managed to win Le Mans again this time in spite of this is a fantastic achievement by the whole Audi squad. We’re tremendously happy and my thanks go to all who have made this success possible.”
The tough race was open for a long time, as the two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars only proved to be victorious in the very final phase of the vent. The #1 car piloted by Lucas di Grassi, Marc Gené, and Tom Kristensen took second in the class, while the #2 car driven by Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer, and Benoît Tréluyer took first. The #3 car driven by Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi, and Oliver Jarvis was forced to retire early on in the race after it was hit in the rear by a Ferrari.
“The new Le Mans regulations place an even greater focus on the efficiency of the race cars at Le Mans than before,” said Professor Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, who as Board Member for Technical Development is responsible for the motorsport program of AUDI AG. “In the TDI, the world’s most efficient drive technology has prevailed at Le Mans yet again. At the same time, with our successful first use of the laser light, we continued our string of technological pioneering achievements at Le Mans. I’d like to thank everybody who has worked extremely hard for this success, above all of course the Audi Sport squad.”
The 82nd running of Le Mans brought along its fair share of challenges for Audi and the Audi Sport Team Joest team. Following a serious accident of Loïc Duval in Wednesday’s free practice, the team had to prepare the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro in a short amount of time from scratch, as well as to replace Loïc Duval with Marc Gené. The team’s epic performance that led to victory on Sunday morning speaks for the impressive work by the mechanics. At the end of the race, however, it was an injector and turbocharger swap that narrowly prevented the team from taking first. With a gap of three laps, Lucas di Grassi, Marc Gené and Tom Kristensen took second place.
The #3 Audi R18 e-tron quattro suffered a major misfortune in the opening hours of the race. After a strong start, the car was hit in the rear at high speed by a GT Ferrari on the Hunaudières straight, during a safety car period in pouring rain. Damage to the R18’s powertrain extensive that Marco Bonanomi was forced to retire after just an hour and a half.
Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer took the lead for the first time on Sunday morning, shortly after 5 a.m. The team has put consistent pressure throughout the night on the Toyota that had been leading for a long time. The R18 needed a new turbocharger, causing the car to drop to third place before moving back to the front in a remarkable recovery during which André Lotterer also set the fastest race lap of 3m 22.567s.
“It was a race of the kind you can only experience at Le Mans,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “There were many incidents and none of the top cars made it across the distance without any problems. The decisive factors were that our Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars were able to drive consistently fast for 24 hours, our drivers made no mistakes and our squad responded properly and quickly to the issues that occurred. In Porsche and Toyota we had two really strong rivals who, as expected, did not make life easy for us. I always believed that, in spite of the particularly difficult prerequisites for us this year, we’d be able to succeed and that we’ve got the most efficient race car. That we succeeded again makes me feel proud. ‘Thanks’ also from me to the whole squad, but to our Management Board and our Group as well that make it possible for us to demonstrate ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ at le Mans year after year. But I also express my respect for the performance delivered by Porsche on their return to Le Mans.”
The race marked the 13th victory in the ‘24 Heures’ for Audi — the eighth one with TDI Power and the third one with a hybrid race car. The team of Reinhold Joest celebrated its 15th success in the world’s most important endurance race, and Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer, following wins in 2011 and 2012, achieved their third Le Mans triumph.