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Clean sweep for Audi at Le Mans

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IOL mot pic jun 17 Le Mans Wrap 1

REUTERS

The four works Audis cruise round in formation after finishing the Le Mans.

Audi has successfully defended its Le Mans 24 Hours endurance title with Germany's Andre Lotterer taking the chequered flag for the second year in a row in a 1-2-3 finish for the dominant manufacturer.

Audi's 11th win in the past 13 years was a first for a diesel-hybrid car at the Sarthe circuit, after they won in 2011 with a diesel engine.

The No1. Audi R18 - shared by Lotterer, France's Benoit Treluyer and Switzerland's Marcel Faessler - led for most of the race and denied Denmark's Tom Kristensen a ninth win in the No.2 car.

Germany's Mike Rockenfeller, a winner for Audi in 2010, wrapped up a sweep of the podium places as he crossed the line in third place in the non-hybrid Audi ultra.

Audi overcame a scare with three hours to go when British driver Allan McNish slid the No.2 Audi into the barriers at the Porsche Curves only moments after Spaniard Marc Gene plunged his non-hybrid Audi into the tyres at the first chicane.

McNish's car was quickly back on track, with the Scot handing over to Kristensen, but Gene's No.3 car lost 20 minutes and finished fifth with Frenchman Loic Duval at the wheel.

IOL mot pic jun 17 Le Mans Wrap 2

The crew of the winning Audi R18 e-tron, from left Andre Lotterer, Marcel Faessler and Benoit Treluyer, celebrate on the podium with Audi motorsport chief Wolfgang Ullrich, in red.

REUTERS

Frenchman Nicolas Prost, son of four-times Formula One champion Alain, split the Audis by claiming fourth place for Rebellion Racing's Toyota-powered Lola B12.

Scotland's Peter Dumbreck and former Formula One drivers David Brabham and Karun Chandhok, the first Indian to race at Le Mans, finished a strong sixth in an HPD ARX 03a.

DAVIDSON CRASH

Audi's works rivals Toyota saw their challenge fade overnight.

They had snatched the lead after five hours of intense racing but their excitement turned to horror when Anthony Davidson, racing in one of the hybrid Toyotas, suffered a spectacular crash.

The Briton's car tagged a Ferrari and took off, twisting 360 degrees in the air before plunging into the tyre barriers at Mulsanne Corner.

Davidson, who clambered out of the car before gesticulating for help from the medical team, will stay in hospital until Monday after fracturing two vertebrae in the incident.

"Well that was a big one! Feeling a bit sore today, but generally happy to be alive," the 33-year-old, whose injuries are expected to take three months to heal, said on Twitter.

Toyota later had to retire their second car when its engine failed.

Kazuki Nakajima, who was driving when the car went out, said afterwards: "It was a real disappointment to end the race early; our dream was to see the chequered flag." .

Despite failing to finish, Toyota impressed after returning to sports-car racing for the first time in 13 years with a petrol-electric hybrid car.

But before his exit, Nakajima also ended the run of the experimental Nissan DeltaWing when he punted it off the road and into the barriers at the exit of the Porsche Curves.

The sleek car, reminiscent of a 'Batmobile', had been invited to race at Le Mans to showcase new technologies, including a smaller engine and 100mm front wheels.

DeltaWing pilot Marino Franchitti, younger brother of Indianapolis 500 winner Dario and cousin of Formula One racer Paul di Resta, said: "It hurt last night and it hasn't got any easier - but I'm very proud to show that this car works and what the future of motorsport could be. I hope this is only the beginning of this car."

Ex-Formula One driver and 1990 Le Mans winner Martin Brundle paired up with son Alex for the first time, joining Spanish gamer-turned-racer Lucas Ordonez in a Zytek to finish 15th.

Thirty-five of the 56 starters were still running at the end of the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 hours. – Reuters


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