Le Mans, as exciting as it is, looks more and more like watching F1 in 2004 or 1998 when Ferrari and McLaren respectively dominated the rest of the field. Will Audi win next year? Would anyone bet against it?
New (old)comers Toyota made some headway but that could just mean that it goes back to the Audi-Peugeot rivalry. Once the fight is close, Audi can pull some neat development magic and make a faster car leaving the French company in its LMP1 wake.
Anyway, here are some key facts about the 80th running of the famous 24-hour endurance race:
- 11 times in front: Audi made its Le Mans debut in 1999 and has now won the 24-hour race for the eleventh time since 2000. No other manufacturer has clinched as many victories at La Sarthe in such a short period of time.
- New technologies: After the first victory of an Audi TFSI engine (2001) and the first win of a diesel power-plant thanks to TDI (2006), the first victory of a hybrid vehicle has now followed.
- Rate increase: Audi has won eleven times in 14 attempts. Only Porsche, the sister brand in the Volkswagen Group, has scored more overall victories – 16 wins from 62 races. This calculates to a unique winning rate of 78.57 per cent for Audi.
- Triple high: Only 14 times in the 80 events of the Le Mans 24 Hours has a manufacturer occupied the top-three positions. After 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2010, Audi has now monopolised the entire podium for a fifth time.
- Hat-trick: Like last year, Audi achieved the best time in qualifying, the fastest race lap plus overall victory.
- Brief interruption: The safety cars took command of the field at Le Mans only three times. The 24-hour race was neutralised for a total of 2hr 22mins. Last year, with 4hrs 46mins, this period was more than twice as long.
- Further and faster: Last year, Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer covered a distance of 4,838.295 kilometres (average speed: 201.266 km/h). This year, they completed 5,151.762 kilometres (214.468 km/h). Normally, higher speed also means higher consumption.
- Breakthrough for efficiency technologies: Although the winners were 6.4 percent faster than last year, their current Audi R18 e-tron quattro burned clearly less fuel than the R18 TDI. Twelve months later, Audi managed to reduce fuel consumption by ten percent to 33.34 litres per 100 kilometres.
- Endurance test: Only 33 of the 56 entrants that started the race finished were classified at the end. This equates to a retirement rate of 41 percent. Audi’s retirement rate was 0 percent – all four vehicles saw the finish line.
- Suspense galore: The lead changed 19 times at the Le Mans 24 Hours. In 18 cases, an Audi driver was in front whereas newcomer Toyota, the race leader on laps 83 to 85, immediately showed its potential. On 326 out of 378 laps, the subsequent winning vehicle led the field. During the final 79 laps alone the lead changed eight times.
- 23 hits: The combined tally of the twelve Audi factory drivers now reflects 22 victories. Timo Bernhard, as another Audi factory driver, contributes a 23rd win to the all-time winners’ list.
- Nicknaming: The victorious Audi R18 e-tron quattro bearing car number “1” and chassis number R18-208 has internally been christened “Electra” by the team. Last year, Audi won the Le Mans 24 Hours with an R18 TDI called “Red Sonja.”
- Pride of their nations: Benoît Tréluyer recorded the 40th victory of a Frenchman at the classic event, André Lotterer the 28th one for Germany and Marcel Fässler the second one for Switzerland. He is the only Swiss to have won the race to date. The number of drivers on the all-time winners’ list has remained unchanged this year: 125 different racers have won the Le Mans 24 Hours so far.
- Extension of lead: Tom Kristensen with a track record of eight victories is leading the all-time winners’ list at Le Mans. By having finished as the runner-up, the Dane raised his number of podium results to twelve. With that, he owns two more trophies than Jacky Ickx and Dindo Capello. Kristensen was on podium at each of his finishes – either in first or in third place. Now he finished in second place for the first time.
- Change of lead: After taking second place, Dindo Capello/Allan McNish/Tom Kristensen are again ranking at the top of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) standings. They have so far scored 77 points while the Le Mans winners, Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer, are following them with a 6.5 gap.
- Fastest race lap: Loïc Duval in the number “3” Audi R18 ultra posted the fastest race lap of 3m 24.189s. The Frenchman had previously been the top performer in this discipline in 2010. The current lap was 1.1 seconds faster than last year’s.
- Rolling wave of success: Michelin, Audi’s tire partner, celebrated its 21st Le Mans success. For the French manufacturer, this marked the 15th consecutive win and the eleventh one as Audi’s partner.