A host of new competitors and experimental technologies dreamt of victory in the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans, but in the end, Audi cars finished 1-2-3 to capture their 11th victory in the past 13 years in the world’s most famous endurance race.
In an uncharacteristically dry 24 hours at Le Mans, speed and technology danced together through the twists of the La Sarthe Circuit in the race’s trademark display of determination that ultimately resulted in triumph, tragedy and, often, pure beauty.
Andre Lotterer brought the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro across the finish line first, completing 378 total laps and becoming the first hybrid vehicle to win at Le Mans since the event began in 1923. A second R18 e-tron quattro, the No. 2, finished next in front of the No. 4 Audi R18 ultra – identical in appearance but powered by a non-hybrid turbodiesel engine.
Toyota posed a significant threat to the Audi reign with their new, rear-wheel-drive hybrid TS030 racecar. They held the lead nearly six hours into the race, with Nicolas Lapierre seizing control in his No. 7 car. Just minutes later, however, teammate Anthony Davidson in the No. 8 Toyota collided with the No. 81 GTE-Amateur Ferrari 458 at speeds in excess of 180mph on the Mulsanne Straight that sent him flipping into the air, destroying the car. AF Corse driver Piergiuseppe Perazzini walked away uninjured but Davidson suffered two broken vertebrae in the horrific wreck. He is expected to recover fully in three months.
When green flag racing returned one hour later, bad luck plagued the remaining Toyota. The No. 7 car fought traffic with the Audis through the Porsche Curves and made contact with the experimental Nissan-poweredDeltaWing, damaging both cars. Both teams scrambled to keep their cars in the race, but ultimately the DeltaWing retired with broken suspension and the Toyota suffered a blown engine. Though their race ended early, the return of Toyota and their legitimate challenge of Audi bodes well for the future of Le Mans.
That left the door wide open for Audi, who tie Ferrari for second place in all-time Le Mans victories with thirteen. Porsche, who has announced they will return to compete in 2014, holds the record with 16 victories.
In the LMP2 class, the No. 44 HPD ARX 03B captured victory for Starworks Motorsport, followed by the No. 46 Oreca 03 of TDS Racing and No. 49 Oreca 03 of Pecom Racing.
The No. 51 Ferrari 458 Italia of AF Corse took the checkered flag in the GTE-Pro class. Another Ferrari, the No. 59 of Luxury Racing finished second and the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Aston Martin Racing came in third.
In GTE-AM, the No. 50 Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 finished first for Larbre Competition. They were followed by the No. 67 Porsche 911 RSR of IMSA Performance Matmut and the American-run No. 57 Ferrari 458 of Krohn Racing.
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