By Tarek Ramchani
The Audi brand took a deserved podium in the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours, round 3 of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship. André Lotterer, Benoit Tréluyer and Marcel Fassler sharing the #7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro finished the French endurance classic in third place overall behind two Porsche 919 Hybrids.
Loic Duval, Oliver Jarvis and Lucas di Grassi were fourth behind the wheel of the #8 Audi R18 e-tron quattro. Filipe Albuquerque, René Rast and Marco Bonanomi were seventh driving the #9 Audi R18 e-tron quattro.
The three Audis were really fast all race long with André Lotterer achieving a stunning 3:17.475 , a new race lap record at Le Mans. But overall it was not an easy event for Audi Sport Team Joest at the Circuit de La Sarthe. All of the three works Audi R18 e-tron quattro were had race incidents and issues preventing them from taking the overall win.
It all started very well for Audi Sport Team Joest's works LMP1 machines challening the rivals from Porsche. The R18 e-tron quattros were as fast as the 919 Hybrids who dominated the qualifying sessions. The race lead changed many times with the two brands having an unblievable pace. Fans on site and around the world enjoyed some thrilling and hard battles for position one.
Then bad luck started to hit the Audis one by one at different stages of the race. First it was with the #8 Audi driven by Loic Duval, Oliver Jarvis and Lucas di Grassi. In the opening hours of the race Loïc Duval had a big crash with the #8 Audi following an unfortunate contact with a GTE Ferrari 458 GTC. The car headed back to its garage for repair before joining the track.
At the end of hour 16 it was the turn of the #7 Audi driven by André Lotterer, Benoit Tréluyer and Marcel Fassler. The Swiss driver was chasing the leading Porsche when he forced to join the pitlane after that part of the rear bodywork flew off. The FIA WEC points leaders lost 10 minutes ending any hope for a fourth win.
The #9 Audi of Filipe Albuquerque, René Rast and Marco Bonanomi was performing well, running in third overall when the car started to face issues with the hybrid system. The car was forced to stop and lost a lot of time in its garage.
No victory this year, but credits to the whole Audi Sport Team Joest, crew members and drivers. All of them fought hard to the end and never gave up all race long. Audi will be back next year and will try to bring the big trophy back to Ingolstadt.
Congratulations to Porsche for their 1-2 victory, their first outright win in Le Mans since 1998. Earl Bamber, Nico Hulkenberg and Nick Tandy shared the winning #19 Porsche 919 Hybrid ahead of their team-mates Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley with the sister #18 machine.
LMP2 class victory went to the #47 Oreca 05 Nissan from KCMG. The factory #64 Corvette 7.R from Corvette Racing won the demanding GTE-Pro class. The #72 Ferrari 458 Italia from SMP Racing won GTE-Am.
2015 Le Mans 24 Hours final results:
P1 #19 Porsche 919 Hybrid
P2 #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid
P3 #7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro
P4 #8 Audi R18 e-tron quattro
P5 #18 Porsche 919 Hybrid
P6 #2 Toyota TS040 Hybrid
P7 #9 Audi R18 e-tron quattro
P8 #1 Toyota TS040 Hybrid
The next round of the FIA World Endurance Championshop will be the 6 Hours of Nürburgring, a home race for the Audi.
Photo credit:Audi Media