Timo Bernhard, Mike Rockenfeller and Romain Dumas drove flawlessly to claim Audi’s ninth Le Mans win since 1999, setting a new distance record of 3,361 miles and equalling Ferrari’s position in the roll of honour in the French endurance classic in the process.
The victorious Audi R15 TDI plus completed 397 laps in the 24 hours, breaking the previous record set buy Dr Helmut Marko and Gijs van Lennep in a Porsche 917 in 1971.
Except for a slow puncture and the loss of the right-hand mirror, the race went without a hitch for Bernhard, Rockenfeller and Dumas. Second place was taken by Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer, whose R15 TDI Plus came into contact with the track barriers twice.
But it was not an easy win for Audi – Peugeot looked like it had clinched its second consecutive Le Mans win until all four of its 908s were forced to retire from the race with mechanical failures.
Allan McNish, who brought his team’s R15 home in third place, just three laps behind the winners, commented: “It’s an unbelievable result because we didn’t have the outright pace of Peugeot, but we had the efficiency and reliability plus the team, structure, drivers and experienced engineers who knew how to win here.”
McNish’s team started sixth on the grid and was up to fourth when co-driver Tom Kristensen came across a slow-moving car, which lost him three laps. However, fast lap times from Capello, Kristensen and McNish pushed their team back into the top three, giving them a deserved place on the podium.
Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler, who witnessed