Audi's eerily quiet diesel-powered R10 has made history by becoming the first non-petrol powered car to win the world famous 24 Heures du Mans with a faultless run by the #8 R10 in its debut at the French classic with Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner scoring the emotional victory in front of a record crowd of 235,000.
The German concern's new car took over from its all-conquering R8 and the win continues Audi's exceptional record at Le Mans; out of eight years of participation they have won six times, and an Audi engine powered a further winner in that period too.
The fortunes of the winning #8 Audi contrasted with that of the pole-sitting #7 Audi with Rinaldo Capello, Allan McNish and Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen on driving duties. Kristensen, the driver to have won the most Le Mans races, looked set to continue his unbroken win run this century until engine problems related to the sophisticated high pressure injection system meant the car was stationary for over 20 minutes in the pits approaching the four hour mark.
The #7 car fought back but the damage was done. Despite all this there was still a second Audi on the podium as the race pace was good enough to fight back to third, 13 laps down on the winner and four down on the second placed finisher, the #17 Pescarolo C60 Judd with Eric Helary, Frank Montagny and Sebastien Loeb on driving duties.
The #17 car had been the slower of the two-pronged Pescarolo entry but the #16 sister car of Nicholas Minassian, Emmanuel Collard and Erik Comas suffered an engine problem approaching the six hour mark with Minassian at the wheel. Unsure of where the electrical problem lay, the French squad adopted a shotgun approach and changed all relevant components to ensure the problem would not reappear.
It was not all plain sailing for the winning car either. A ten minute pit stop approaching 4am local time, most notably to replace the gearbox cluster, and the front bodywork also required replacement due to the headlights not functioning as they should have been were but the only notable mentions but these were not sufficient to hand Pescarolo the advantage.
The #16 Pescarolo's pit stop handed third place to Jan Lammers' Racing for Holland #14 Dome-Judd with Lammers, Stefan Johansson and Alex Yoong sustaining the gifted third before Yoong suffered a reported throttle jam and broke the steering arms in the subsequent contact with the wall. Car #16 fought back to take fifth.
Winning the prize for most spectacular race exit was the #37 Belmondo Racing Courage C65-Meacachrome which suffered a high-speed rear tyre failure with Frenchman Yann Clairay at the wheel approaching the four hour mark. The 23 year-old was unscathed, but the same could not be said for the car he was sharing Didier Andre and Jean Bernard Bouvet. The bodywork damage was compounded by a brief fire, quickly extinguished by the marshals.
In terms of class battles, all bar the leading LMP1 class offered changes of lead and fluctuating fortunes at the head of the order. LMP2 saw a sterling effort from last year class winners RML in the MG Lola EX264 running as high as fifth in the overall standings and finishing in ninth overall at the flag.