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2012-06-17 16:53

TRIUMPH FOR E-TRON: Drivers of the Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro No.1, Marcel Faessler, Andre Lotterer, and French Benoit Treluyer celebrate on their car after winning the 80th edition of Le Mans 24 hours endurance race. Audi has now won 11 of the l

Sarah Holt

Le Mans, France - Audi defended its Le Mans 24 Hours endurance title on Sunday with Germany's Andre Lotterer taking the flag for the second year in a row in a 1-2-3 finish for the dominant manufacturer.

Audi's 11th win in the last 13 years was a first for a diesel-hybrid car at the Sarthe circuit. They won last year with a diesel engine.

The No.1 Audi R18 - shared by Lotterer, France's Benoit Treluyer and Switzerland's Marcel Faessler - led for most of the race and denied Denmark's Tom Kristensen a ninth win in the No.2 car.


Germany's Mike Rockenfeller, a winner for Audi in 2010, wrapped up a sweep of the podium places as he crossed the line third in the non-hybrid Audi ultra.

Audi overcame a scare with three hours to go when British driver Allan McNish slid the No.2 Audi into the barriers at the Porsche Curves only moments after Spaniard Marc Gene plunged his non-hybrid Audi into the tyres at the first chicane.

McNish's car was quickly back on track, with the Scot handing over to Kristensen, but Gene's No.3 car lost 20 minutes and finished fifth with Frenchman Loic Duval at the wheel.

Frenchman Nicolas Prost, son of four-times F1 champion Alain, split the Audis by claiming fourth for Rebellion Racing's Toyota-powered Lola B12.

Scotland's Peter Dumbreck and former F1drivers David Brabham and Karun Chandhok, the first Indian to race at Le Mans, finished a strong sixth in the JRM team's HPD ARX 03a.


Audi's works rivals Toyota saw its challenge fade overnight. They had snatched the lead after five hours of intense racing but their excitement turned to horror when Anthony Davidson, racing in one of the hybrid Toyotas, suffered a spectacular crash.

The Briton's car tagged a Ferrari and took off, twisting 360 degrees in the air before plunging into the tyre barriers at Mulsanne Corner. Davidson somehow clambered out of the car before gesticulating for help from the medical team. He will stay in hospital until Monday with two fractured vertebrae.

"Well that was a big one! Feeling a bit sore today, but generally happy to be alive," the 33-year-old, whose injuries are expected to take three months to heal, said on Twitter.

Toyota later had to retire their second car when the engine failed. "It was a real disappointment to end the race early; our dream was to see the chequered flag," said Kazuki Nakajima, who was the last Toyota driver out on track.


Despite failing to finish, Toyota impressed after returning to sports-car racing for the first time in 13 years with a petrol-electric hybrid car.

Before his exit, Nakajima ended the run of the experimental Nissan DeltaWing overnight when the Toyota pushed it off the road and into the barriers at the exit of the Porsche Curves.

The sleek car, reminiscent of a Batmobile, had been invited to race at Le Mans to showcase new technologies, including a smaller engine and tiny front paired wheels.

"It hurt last night and it hasn't got any easier," said Marino Franchitti, younger brother of Indy 500 winner Dario and a cousin of F1 racer Paul di Resta, “but I'm very proud to show that this car works and what the future of motorsport could be.

“I hope this is only the beginning for this car."

Ex-F1 driver and 1990 Le Mans winner Martin Brundle paired up with son Alex for the first time and Spanish gamer-turned-racer Lucas Ordonez in a Zytek and finished 15th.

The 80th edition of the race saw 35 drivers finish.


Inside Wheels24

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