Audi's R15 becomes third successive LMP1 car to win on racing debut with victory in the Sebring Twelve Hours
Audi has been left celebrating after completing a 'hat-trick' of debut wins with its latest generation LMP1 machinery in the opening round of the American Le Mans Series at Sebring.
Following on from a win first time out for both the R8 and the R10 TDi, the team secured victory in the first race for the R15 TDi after Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello held off the challenge of Peugeot in a record-breaking Sebring Twelve Hours, while the sister car of Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Werner also finished on the podium in third place.
Despite limited testing for the car, the new R15 ran without major problems during the race, with McNish quickly moving into the lead at the start and the #2 then remaining near the head of the field throughout. A suspected puncture for the #8 Peugeot gave McNish the chance to pull out enough of a lead to complete a late 'splash and dash' stop before the Scot took the flag just over 20 seconds clear of Franck Montagny in the Peugeot.
"Our brand new R15 TDI was faultless throughout and allowed Audi to secure another Sebring victory,” McNish said, after a race which broke the record for most laps, further distance and highest average speed. “This must go down in the history books as one of the best Sebring 12 Hour races ever when you take in to account our competition, the intensity from start to finish making it a sprint race, with the final two hours especially typifying what Audi Sport is all about: grit and determination – the entire team can be proud in taking the laurels back to Germany."
The win also added another note to the impressive resume of 'Great Dane' Kristensen, who now holds the record for wins at Sebring after his fifth success.
"It's an absolutely fantastic feeling,” he said. “Wow, what a race – the fastest ever race at Sebring covering a record distance. Winning with such a young car which had completed low testing miles in dry weather before we got here is amazing. I won here on the debut of the R8, then the R10 TDI and now the R15 TDI – thanks to the know how and experience of the crew. Everyone at Audi Sport, and all six drivers here at Sebring, have worked very hard to be in a position to beat Peugeot here at this very difficult track and after an extremely hard fight. I'm proud to be a part of this team – it's a cool feeling."
The sister car was shared for the most part by Luhr and Rockenfeller after Werner picked up a rib injury when struck by debris thrown up from the track, with Rockenfeller saying he was pleased with the podium finish.
"I've been in the car for three times and basically things went well every time,” he said. “I could almost match the times of our sister car. Unfortunately we could not finish better than third in the end but I'm happy with my performance. The car was running well. It's a shame that Marco (Werner) was injured, but it was no real problem for us to finish the race with just two drivers. Congratulations to our sister car and Audi. Many have come to Sebring with a new car – but we can be proud of completing the distance with both cars basically without any problems and we can build on this for Le Mans."