Le Mans: Audi top, Davidson hurt
THE TOYOTA TEAM: From left are Switzerland's Sebastien Buemi, France's Stephane Sarrazin and Britain's Antony Davidson, drivers of the Toyota Hybrid N°8, France's Nicolas Lapierre, Japan's Kazuki Nakajima and Austria's Alexander Wurz, drivers
Author: Sarah Holt
LE MANS, France - Toyota's British driver Anthony Davidson’s back is broken after a huge incident in the 2012 Le Mans 24-Hour endurance race.
Audi was leading the race in the early hour of Sunday in a 1-2-3 formation.
Davidson was taken to hospital after his Toyota tagged a Ferrari sports car he was lapping in an accident that brought out the pace car with five hours gone.
The Toyota took off and twisted 360 degrees through the air before plunging into the tyre barrier at the Mulsanne Corner, the end of the fast Mulsanne straight where cars reach more than 330km/h.
The 33-year-old, an ex-Formula 1 driver and GP analyst for Sky TV, climbed out of the No.8 car and gesticulated before receiving treatment from the medical team at the Sarthe circuit.
The AF Corse Ferrari hit the barriers and overturned but Italian driver Piergiuseppe Perazzini was also able to extricate himself.
Toyota said Davidson had been walking and talking normally before being taken to hospital. The Briton later confirmed the extent of his injuries from the crash on his Twitter site.
"Well that was a big one! Lying in a French hospital with a broken back wasn't what I had in mind at this stage in the race," he said. There was no immediate explanation of how he managed to walk with a broken back.
After 14 hours, the No.1 Audi with Germany's Andre Lotterer at the wheel was more than two minutes ahead of the No.2 driven by double winner Allan McNish.
The No.4 Audi was in third place, ahead of the No.12 Toyota-powered Lola.
PACE CAR OUT
Moments before Davidson's crash, Nicolas Lapierre in the No.7 Toyota petrol-hybrid had taken the lead from Audi's No.1 R18 diesel-hybrid being driven at the time by fellow Frenchman Treluyer.
The pair swopped places more than once before the Toyota racer made the move stick but, with the pace car out on the track, Audi and Toyota took the opportunity to swop their drivers and Switzerland's Fassler returned the Audi to the lead.
Former F1 driver Kazuki Nakajima had slotted into second place in the Toyota ahead of Audi's Italian Rinaldo Capello after five hours but his car then suffered a puncture and bodywork damage after a collision with the revolutionary DeltaWing car.
Re-joining, Nakajima had to make a further pit stop to change the alternator and replace the rear brakes. After 14 hours they had fallen to 48th of the 56 entrants.
The No.3 Audi R18 Ultra had moved up to fifth after dropping back to 24th hours earlier when Romain Dumas put it into the tyre barriers in an earlier crash. The Frenchman frantically dug the Audi out of the tyre wall and nursed the damaged car back to the pits.
DAD AND SON TEAM
In the LMP2 category, the No.44 HPD was highest placed in seventh, the No.49 Oreca eighth.
Le Mans debutant Alex Brundle, partnering his father and 1990 Le Mans winner Martin, 16th in a Zytek Z11SN.
The Nissan-powered DeltaWing suffered gearbox and fuelling problems and retired after seven hours because of the collision.
"It's a shame because we had been running well, setting respectable times and things were going well," said Britain's Marino Franchitti, who had yet to get behind the wheel. "Having spent so much time developing it, I'm gutted I haven't been able to race it - that hurts."
The sleek car, reminiscent of a Batmobile, had been invited to race at Le Mans to showcase new technologies, including a smaller engine and closely aligned front wheels.
Audi won the race in 2011 with a diesel car, their 10th victory in the 12 years at the event.
This year's race is the 80th edition of the sports car classic at the Circuit de la Sarthe.