Fassler, Lotterer, Treluyer celebrate their second straight Le Mans win - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
Perhaps it wasn't the competitive 24-hour race in the top, LMP1 class that both Audi and Toyota - and fans of the sport - had been hoping for, but the 80th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the 8.5-mile Sarthe Circuit changed the way endurance racing's premier prototype class will be run from here on out.
With their Audi R18 e-tron quattro coupes earning the top two spots, the now 11-time Le Mans winners took victory with two hybrid machines that achieved excellent power, superb chassis balance and managed to stay out of the pits more than any other machines in their class.
The victory went to the reigning, now two-time champions Fassler/Lotterer/Treyluter in the No. 1 over Capello (it was his 48th birthday on Sunday)/Kristensen/McNish trio in the second, No. 2 e-tron quattro by a full lap, with Bonanomi/Jarvis/Rockenfeller third in the No. 4 R18 TDI Ultra. The Rebellion Racing Lola/Toyota petrol car of Heidfeld/Jani/Prost was fifth and nine laps back of the winners. The final Audi R18 Ultra finished fifth after several incidents marred its progress.
The winning car, nicknamed "Electra" didn't have an easy go as Marcel Fassler impacted the barriers twice in the closing stages; Benoit Treluyer fought a cold the entire time after participating in the wet Friday night parade.
"This was a race of the kind you can arguably experience only at Le Mans," said Wolfgang Ullrich, Audi motorsports chief. "You should never rejoice too early at Le Mans, which was obvious again, especially on Sunday noon," when the quicker No. 2 e-tron quattro driven by Allan McNish crashed while in the lead.
"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. 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," Ullrich said. That these two hybrid machines had few if any mechanical difficulties - neither did the Toyota pair - bodes well for the sport and perception of hybrid abilities.
The Toyota challenge evaporated early with crashes by both cars, with the No. 8 TS030 hybrid going out early in a massive crash that injured driver Anthony Davidson's T11 and T12 vertebrae - and of course wrote off the cartwheeling car. The second No. 7 TS030 made contact with the DeltaWing on the restart following Davidson's crash and that took out both cars before nightfall, leaving the four Audi prototypes - two e-tron quattro's and two TDI Ultra coupes to fight among themselves.
American entrant Starworks Motorsports won LMP2 - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo