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Audi reclaims Le Mans crown

13 June 2010

Audi has reclaimed the Le Mans 24 Hours title after securing a lock-out of the podium in the 2010 running of the French classic.

Despite lacking the pace of rivals Peugeot, the Ingolstadt crew had the reliability to make it to the chequered flag and secure victory with the R15 Plus.

Timo Bernhard, Mike Rockenfeller and Romain Dumas had been tipped as the Audi crew most likely to challenge at the front and the trio successfully brought the car to the finish for a record-breaking victory that exceeded the previous distance record for the current circuit.

Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler suffered minor delays in the pits during the race which meant they took second place, a lap down, while Audi's dream team of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello was two laps further back in third place having lost time on Saturday evening following an incident with one of the GT2 BMWs.

For Peugeot, the 2010 running of the French classic is a race that won't live long in the memory after the team failed to drive home the advantage that the 908 HDi clearly had at the front of the field.

Quicker than Audi throughout the week, Peugeot looked well placed to defend the title it won last season but instead could only watch on as its big rivals locked out the podium.

It could, and perhaps more importantly should, have been different for Peugeot after all four of its cars retired with mechanical issues.

The #3 car failed to even make it to Saturday night when it picked up damage to the tub following a suspension issue, while the #2 led through the night before expiring in fiery fashion on Saturday morning while leading in the hands of Franck Montagny.

That left Peugeot playing catch-up with the #1 and the #4 Oreca-run, both of which had been delayed earlier in the race by mechanical issues. Neither would survive to the flag though, suffering engine failures of their own in the final two hours to hand victory to Audi on a plate.

Seeing the Oreca-Aim secure top petrol honours in fourth place was something of a surprise after the car battled various issues during the race, but its top-four place was secured largely down to problems elsewhere – most notably for the #009 Lola-Aston Martin which suffered engine failure in the final hour of the race while looking well set for petrol honours.

The second of the Aston Martin entries did make it to the finish in sixth place overall while the only other LMP1 car to take the chequered flag – the Drayson Racing Lola – was right at the bottom of the standings after spending hours in its garage during the race.

Beechdean Mansell went out early when Nigel Mansell crashed on the fifth lap while Rebellion Racing and Kolles Audi saw both cars retire. Signature Plus and Autocon also failed to see the finish, the latter dropping out on the very first lap.

LMP2 honours went to Strakka Racing after a stunning performance from the British team, with Danny Watts taking the flag to give HPD a victory on its La Sarthe debut. The victory proved to be comfortable in the end with a six lap buffer to the second placed OAK Racing Pescarolo with RML's Lola Coupe in third.

The battle between Strakka and HPD-rivals Highcroft had raged for much of the race before mechanical issues forced the Highcroft car into the pits. The team was however able to get the car back on track to take the chequered flag.

OAK was able to get both cars to the finish despite the #24 being involved in a crash during the night, while Team Bruichladdich, Race Performance, Quifel-ASM and KSM battled various issues to make the finish. For Race Performance in particular, that was an impressive feat given the late nature of its entry into the race.

Just as impressively, only two LMP2 cars failed to finish, with the Racing Box Lola going out with mechanical problems and the Pegasus Racing Norma-Judd crashing out of its debut race after being hit by the GT2 Spyker.

The curtain in GT1 came down with victory for the oldest car on the grid, as Jack Leconte's Larbre team secured class honours with the venerable Saleen S7R. Although the victory was largely down to the misfortune of others, the French team was able to claim victory ahead of the #72 Luc Alphand Corvette and the delayed Young Driver Aston Martin.

The three Ford GTs all failed to finish, the #60 having led early before being involved in an accident, while the second of the Luc Alphand Corvettes and the JLOC Lamborghini were also retirements.

Porsche enjoyed success in the GT2 class as Felbermayr-Proton took a two lap victory ahead of the leading Ferrari in the hands of Hankook Team Farnbacher.

Pre-race favourites Corvette and Risi Competizione failed to finish, with Risi losing the #82 to a gearbox issue and the #83 to engine problems, while the #64 Corvette crashed out after a coming together with one of the Peugeot's and the #63 ground to a halt with mechanical issues.


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