The idea to run a 24-hour race at Le Mans was born in 1922 at the Salon de l?Automobile in Paris. At the same location, some eighty years later, the race organising Automobile Club de l?Ouest [ACO] handed over the historic Le Mans trophy to Audi.

At the beginning of the Nineties, the ACO created the trophy, presented each year to the Le Mans winner and handed back to the ACO before the start of the following season's race. At the same time, however, the organiser decided that, if a manufacturer won the Le Mans 24 Hours with the same team three times in a row, it could keep the trophy forever.

Audi Sport Team Joest succeeded in securing this hat-trick in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Hence, the trophy is now owned by Audi and, in the future, will be on view in the Audi museum in Ingolstadt, Germany.

"In scoring three consecutive Le Mans victories Audi has achieved something very rare and this feat goes down in the history books of the 24 hour race and automobile sport," said ACO president Michel Cosson at the trophy presentation. "The trophy will link Audi and Le Mans together forever."

Audi "works" drivers, Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro, the first driver squad to win the Le Mans 24 Hour race three times in succession, were also honoured in Paris.

"Audi is proud to be the first manufacturer in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hour race to call the Le Mans trophy its own," declared Dr Martin Winterkorn, chairman of the board at Audi AG, who received the prestigious trophy from Cosson, "Such an outstanding success is only reached thanks to a huge team effort, and my thanks go to the entire Audi team."

The Automobile Club de l?Ouest, meanwhile, faces an unusual task. By the next 24 Hours, over 14-15 June 2003, it must create a brand new winners? trophy...

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