Sitting atop the podium for the 12 time, victory for Audi at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was different for one key reason this year: competition.
Sitting on the pole and dominating the race, the Audi Sport Team Joest No. 2 car piloted by Loïc Duval, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish pulled out a win by a full lap over the No. 8 Toyota Racing entry driven by Anthony Davidson, Sebastian Buemi and Stephane Sarrazin. Finishing off the podium was the No. 3 Audi e-tron quattro.
Besting their new rivals at Toyota, the Audi teams full lap victory was much closer than it looks, with the 24 hour endurance race pitting the increased speed of the Audis against the superior distance of the Toyotas. While the Audi teams required a pit stop for fuel every 10 laps, their Japanese rivals managed to eek out 12 laps per tank.
In the end, however, the No. 2 Audis speed and fault-free driving led the team to victory.
With several long caution periods, the race was not without its drama either. Toyota looked to have captured both the second and third positions on the podium heading into the final stretch but when the skies opened the No. 7 Toyota Racing car made contact with a tire barrier. The team pulled off a miraculous rebuild of the vehicle’s front end, allowing it to rejoin the field and take fourth, seven laps down from the leader.
Rounding out the top five was the No. 1 Audi, which was involved in an incident earlier in the race. Fixed in the Audi garages, it’s rebuild period was more significant meaning it finished 10 laps down from the lead car.
With the victory, Audi has now won the 24 Hours of Le Mans 12 of the past 14 years. This also moves Audi into second place overall for the most manufacturer wins at Le Mans, with Porsche (which will rejoin the series to rival Audi next year) the overall leader with 16.