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The only Japanese manufacturer to ever win the prestigious 24-Hours of Le Mans so far has been Mazda with its 787B. Toyota has been wanting to change that for nearly two decades now. Their last effort in the LMP1 class failed, but next year they’ll be back with a vengeance, using a hybrid racer.
Not that the French will make it any easier on the Japanese, as Peugeot has just put some testing miles on their new race car, the 908 HYbrid4. First shown at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show in March, this new race car just completed its first test at the Estoril circuit in Portugal on October 11th. The car went through 300 km of testing in the hands of Nicolas Minassian, Stephane Sarrazin and former Formula 1 driver Alex Wurz.
Peugeot Sports technical director Bruno Famin said, “Our aim wasn’t to put a lot of kilometres on the clock, but to verify that all the chief functions performed.” He added, “It was important to analyse the data of each run to be sure we understood the results before moving on to the next step. The system functioned well and responded as predicted, which was very satisfying. At the same time, we started to make a few adjustments to the car’s basic set-up. It worked well, so that’s very positive.”
Peugeot has been working on the 908 HYbrid since 2008 and the car is only now coming close to becoming a reality. However, Peugeot is not the only European car company trying to compete with a hybrid racer, as Porsche is also aiming to enter with not only their 911 GT3 R Hybrid, but also the 918 Hybrid race car.
When the clock struck 12 today at Le Circuit de La Sarthe, Audi took home a stunning sweep of the podium at this year’s running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. With the Peugeot 908′s showing considerably more pace during qualifying, not even Audi Motorsports boss Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich would have predicted a 1-2-3 finish for their R15 TDI diesel-powered LMP1 machines.
According to Ullrich, “At the beginning it was a little unlucky for us but at the end it all worked fine. It’s a great reward for all the work that everyone [at Audi Motorsports] has done. I think this has to be the hardest Le Mans we’ve ever done.”
Dr. Ullrich was congratulated by his counterpart at Peugeot, Director of Motorsport Olivier Quesnel, straight after the race. Ullrich returned the favor by paying tribute to Audi’s arch rival Peugeot by remarking on the camararderie between the two teams. “In sport when someone wins then someone else loses, but when the loser comes and congratulates the winner it is all very sporting. That is what we did last year and that’s what Peugeot has done this year. It has been a fantastic battle, we’ve invited the Peugeot guys to a party tonight and we hope that they will all come”.
For Audi this is their 9th victory at Le Mans, tying them with Ferrari as the second winningest team in history (Porsche having 16 wins to their name). The winning #9 Audi, driven by Mike Rockenfeller, Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard, also set a new distance record by completing 397 laps at an average speed of 225.228 km/h.
This was also Michelin’s 19th Le Mans victory and the 27th time the race has been won by a German car.
Results from LMP2, GT1 and GT2 after the jump: