For the second successive season, Audi trio Emanuele Pirro, Marco Werner and Frank Biela have secured victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Having clinched the first diesel victory twelve months ago with the Audi R10, the defending champions successfully mastered the conditions during the race to come home comfortably clear of the Peugeot 908 of Sebastien Bourdais, Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy – the French manufacturer securing a podium finish on its Le Mans debut with its own diesel car.
For much of the race it had looked like the #2 Audi of Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish would emerge as the victor, but Sunday morning would see the demise of the race leader when Capello lost a wheel at Indianapolis and ploughed off into the barriers – leaving the #1 R10 as the lone Audi for the final hours of the race, the #3 entry driven by Audi's DTM drivers Lucas Luhr, Alex Premat and Mike Rockenfeller having crashed out just an hour and half into the race at Tertre Rouge.
As the clock ticked down, the biggest problem facing the #1 Audi in the closing stages was the weather as the heavy rain that had been forecast finally arrived in the final hours, with the result that the race ran behind the Safety Car until the last ten minutes when the field was released to ensure the race didn't finish under caution.
Despite the conditions being better suited to a rowing boat than a race car, Werner successfully brought the car to the finish to give Audi its seventh Le Mans win in the last eight years.
"This is a great moment," Pirro said as team-mate Werner took the finish. "There was a lot of pressure with the other two cars retiring as we had no-one behind to back us up. I'm so happy we made it."
While victory capped a fairytale result for the Audi trio, second place was fine reward for the Peugeot team on its Le Mans debut with the 908 HDi.
The #8 car had started the race from pole position but a mistake at the very first corner by Bourdais allowed Audi to take a lead that it would maintain to the finish – albeit with a different car.
The race wasn't without problems for the car with a transmission issue on Saturday evening dropping the Peugeot back down the order but through the night and into daylight, the trio gradually made their way back through the field – taking advantage of problems for others to climb into a podium place.