Le Mans 2007: Audi secures Le Mans glory.

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.

24 Heures du Mans, La Sarthe, France. 16-17th June 2007.#31 B.Binnie (USA), A.Timpany (USA), C. Bunc
24 Heures du Mans, La Sarthe, France. 16-17th June 2007.#31 B.Binnie (USA)…
© Mike Weston

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.

At that point, it looked like Peugeot was going to take a 2-3 finish, with the #8 car running behind the sister machine of Jacques Villeneuve, Marc Gene and Nic Minassian but there would be late heart-ache for one half of the Peugeot team when an engine problem just an hour and half from the finish forced the car into the pit garage for the final time.

There was still time for Bourdais to cause French hearts to skip a beat when he stopped on track just 50 seconds from the finish of the race, Under Le Mans regulations, a car has to take the flag to be classed as a finisher, but it soon became apparent that - with torrential rain falling - the Champ Car World Series title winner was waiting for the race winner to come through rather than run another lap.

With the demise of the two Audis and the Peugeot, Henri Pescarolo's eponymous outfit secured honours amongst the petrol driven brigade with the #16 entry driven by Manu Collard, Jean-Christophe Boullion and Romain Dumas taking the final place on the podium. Indeed the result could have been better for the team had it not been for an incident with a slower car on Sunday morning that resulted in the car being pulled in the garage, but a top three placing in a strong field was still a good result for Pescarolo and his team.

The privateer Pescarolo of Rollcentre Racing secured a lonely fourth place as Martin Short's team celebrated its return to LMP1 after a year with the LMP2 Radical by matching its best finish at La Sarthe. While not having the pace of the cars ahead, solid driving from Short, Joao Barbosa and rookie Stuart Hall saw the team fly the flag for Britain in style.

Five other LMP1 runners were still circulating at the flag with the Charouz Lola in eight after a number of problems during the night, with the second Pescarolo seemed to be in the pits as often as it was on track as Harold Primat, Christophe Tinseau and Benoit Treluyer came home in 13th. A puncture on the opening lap would be the start of a troublesome race for the Chamberlain Synergy Lola in 20th, while the Racing for Holland Dome and the surviving Courage of Alex Frei, Jonathan Cochet and Bruno Besson finished 25th and 26th.

Mechanical problems saw the other Courage forced out, while electrical problems led the Swiss Spirit Lola Audi into retirement. The Creation Autosportif entry suffered three separate, sizeable incidents before eventually being forced to retire.

As seems to be the norm, the LMP2 race proved to be one of attrition - with just two cars running at the flag. However, even with such low numbers, it still looked like the class would provide late drama with the Binnie Motorsport team facing a race against time to make sure its car was able to take the flag.

The Anglo-Scottish team had managed to avoid many of the problems to hit its rivals to take a lead of more than 20 laps into the closing hours of the race and when the torrential rain started to fall in, Chris Buncombe brought the Lola he shared with team owner Bill Binnie and Allen Timpany into the garage. At first it appeared to be a tactical choice from the team with a big advantage to the second placed car, but then the discovery of an electrical issue left the team sweating before Buncombe was wheeled out in time to take part in the final lap and take a richly deserved win.

The only other car running at the flag was one that had figured near the head of the class for long periods, as the Lowes-backed Barazi-Epsilon Zytek of Adrian Fernandez, Robbie Kerr and Haruki Kurosawa made it the finish in second place having overcome numerous mechanical problems and a trip into the barriers at Arnage. The sister car, running the famous Gulf colours had also run near the front of the class prior to its retirement after spinning into the pitwall just after the 19 hour mark,

British teams Bruichladdich Radical and RML would both see their races come to an end in disappointing fashion, with the Radical SR9 crashing out just after the hour mark and the MG Lola of the defending champions also suffering a heavy off in the barriers before it was eventually sidelined by an engine problem just before the 19 hour mark. Mechanical issues also proved to be the undoing of the Pierre Bruneau Pilbeam, the Noel del Bello Courage, the T2M Dome, the Saulnier Racing Courage, the Quifel-ASM Lola and the Kruse Pescarolo. For the Quifel team in particular the race would prove to be tough - with Warren Hughes, Miguel Amaral and Miguel de Castro having established a solid lead before Hughes lost a wheel as the race headed into darkness - the first in a series of mechanical problems during the night that would put the team out.

The GT1 battle would be the exact opposite of that found in the LMP2 class, with just two cars failing to make it to the finish. One of those, the Corvette C6.R of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Max Papis had been expected to challenge for class honours in the battle between the Corvette and Aston Martin Racing teams and the demise of the 2006 race winner left Jan Magnussen, Johnny O'Connell and Ron Fellows to take the fight the Gaydon boys. However, after the disappointment of recent season, 2007 would finally see the Aston Martin Racing team come good as David Brabham, Rickard Rydell and Darren Turner took the #009 DBR9 to the class win.

A fine drive also saw the GT1 winner finish in fifth overall as the leading non-LMP1 runner and the only disappointment for the team was that the sister car, the #007, was unable to make it a 1-2 finish. That had looked likely for periods of the race as the two cars lapped together, but when the #007 was forced to make an unscheduled stop for a new front splitter in the 16th hour, it saw the car of Tomas Enge, Johnny Herbert and Peter Kox drop down to fourth in class. Despite the best efforts of Enge in particular to bring the car back into the podium places, the trio would be forced to settle for fourth in class when Enge went off in the 20th hour while fighting with Christophe Bouchut in the #008 AMR Labre car - suffering a puncture and then needing to make a further lengthy stop to fix problems associated with a trip into the gravel.

Having lost one car early on, the Corvette team was able to throw its resources behind the #63 entry for the majority of the race and the team was rewarded with a second place finish, the late Safety Car period removing any chance the team had of overhauling the Aston Martin to continue the American manufacturers stranglehold on the class. Indeed the result could have been much worse for the team when the Corvette was unceremoniously punted off in the gravel at the first corner by the race leading Audi while being lapped after the R10, with Biela at the wheel at the time, went for a gap that simply wasn't there - the yellow machine rocketing across arguably the biggest gravel trap at the La Sarthe circuit and managing to rejoin.

While the second works car had to settle for fourth, there was two Aston Martins on the podium, with the lead Aston Martin Labre entry of Bouchut, Casper Elgaard and Fabrizio Gollin claiming the final place on the podium. The first Oreca Saleen - which failed to match the pace shown in practice and qualifying - was fifth thanks to French trio Laurent Groppi, Nicolas Prost and Jean-Philippe Belloc while the top six was completed by another DBR9, the BMS entry of Fabio Babini, Matteo Malucelli and Jamie Davies.

Seventh was the Luc Alphand C6.R ahead of the Convers Menx Ferrari, while the top ten finisher in the class were completed by the second Oreca Saleen - which saw its hopes ended when it wouldn't restart in the pitlane - and the Team Modena DBR9, the British team being forced to deal with two trips off track during the night as well as a number of punctures.

GT1 also produced arguably the hard luck story of the weekend in the shape of the JLOC Isao Noritake Lamborghini Murcielago - which had looked set to miss the event altogether after the high-speed accident suffered by Marco Apicella during the first qualifying session on Wednesday. Unable to repair the damaged chassis in time for the race, the team was given special dispensation by the ACO to run a replacement chassis instead but with Apicella sidelined, the Japanese outfit went into the race with just two drivers in the shape of Koji Yamanishi and Atsushi Yogo. However the Japanese dream would be over after just one lap, the Lamborghini parked on the side of the circuit with driveshaft failure.

In GT2, the victory went the way of the IMSA Performance MATMUT team - twelve months after they saw there chance of victory destroyed by an accident during qualifying. With Richard Lietz, Raymond Narac and Patrick Long on driving duties, the French team's Porsche took advantage of the retirement of the Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari due to a broken driveshaft on Sunday morning to take the class lead and, when main rivals Autorlando Sport also hit trouble, the car came home six laps clear of the Krohn Racing/Risi Ferrari of Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson and Colin Braun - which capped a steady if unspectacular run with second place. The Autorlando Porsche, having been forced to pit late on following contact with the tyre wall on the Mulsanne Straight, completed the podium ahead of the AF Corse Ferrari of gentleman drivers Ben Aucott, Joe Macari and F1 design guru Adrian Newey. Defending GT2 champions Lawrence Tomlinson and Richard Dean were the final GT2 entrants running at the flag in the Team LNT Panoz they were sharing with Rob Bell.

Among those to suffer disappointment amongst the GT2 runners was the Risi Ferrari of Jaime Melo, Mika Salo and Johnny Mowlem, which was unable to replicate its from the ALMS and was ultimately forced out by overheating problems, while both Spykers were unable to make the finish - one stopping on circuit with mechanical problems and the other hitting a tyre wall before retiring in the pits. Team LNT's second Panoz, driven by youngsters Tom Milner, Tom Kimber-Smith and Danny Watts was another car that would see mechanical problems end its charge.

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