André Lotterer has confessed that it was all-out attack in the closing stages of the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours last weekend as he endeavoured to stave off the Peugeot of Simon Pagenaud in the final hour in a literal sprint to the finish – and after taking the chequered flag, he admitted, he was 'overcome'.
Lotterer was sharing the #2 Audi R18 TDi – the only one of the German manufacturer's cars to go beyond 11pm on Saturday evening, following the terrifying high-speed shunts suffered by Allan McNish in the #3 car and Mike 'Rocky' Rockenfeller' in the defending race-winning #1 machine – with team-mates Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler at La Sarthe.
If the pressure was on as Audi's sole remaining hope for victory once its other two cars had so spectacularly bitten the dust, then the trio rose to it superbly, and Lotterer was the man entrusted with completing the last stint as Pagenaud hunted him down.
Ultimately, the German had too much pace for his French rival and was able to comfortably hold the chasing 908 at bay to take the chequered flag just under 14 seconds to the good, having set a lap record quicker than pole position along the way. The key, Lotterer reveals, was to never once stop pushing.
“If you have a big target like that, it's actually much easier to focus, because there's no room for other thoughts,” the 29-year-old mused, when asked how difficult it had been to maintain both his speed and concentration when the stakes were at their absolute highest.
“I knew on fresh tyres I could push like crazy and extract the most out of the car, so that gave me confidence – but if they (Peugeot) were quicker than us, that was it, there would have been nothing we could do. Actually, I was a bit confused by the gaps. I thought they were ahead, and suddenly we were in front, so I didn't know, but I only had one target – to push as much as possible.
“The Le Mans 24 Hours is something exceptional – it's a magnificent race. In some aspects, it was a bit of a tragic race for us, and it was not easy when I went past Mike's accident; I saw the damage to the car and I was truly worried. I was asking the team to give me news, and I had a very serious picture in my mind. After that we were the only Audi left on-track, but the goal was still the same.
“At the start of the race I took fewer risks, but at the end you have to really attack and give everything, which I did. It was amazing from start-to-finish. Ben and Marcel were fantastic, too, and it's just amazing to have achieved this success together. I was overcome.”