Audi stick it to Porsche at Le Mans

By Miles Downard *

The 24 Hours of Le Mans ended yesterday, being Sunday 15 June, and if you only happened to see the result you might think it was much the same as last year; Audi one-two and all. However delving into the details shows that things weren’t quite so easy in 2014.

Toyota and Porsche put up a strong challenge, both showing the upper hand at key points throughout the incident-filled race. However as the old adage goes; ‘to finish first, first you must finish’.

Triumph in Le Mans: Audi besiegt Porsche und Toyota

And finish is exactly what Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer managed to do, overcoming turbocharger problems along the way to drive Audi to its 13th title. The German team has now won ten of the last eleven races at Le Mans, including the last five.

“We did like in 2011,” Treluyer told Eurosport. “We stayed calm and attacked when we needed to. Andre (Lotterer) really put the pressure on Porsche at the right time.”

It was the trio’s third victory at Le Mans. Their Audi No. 2 finished three laps ahead of the Audi number 1 driven by Lucas di Grassi, Marc Gene and defending champion Tom Kristensen.

However the result was far less certain when in the 16th hour the number 2 Audi suffered a turbo failure, requiring a 23 minute pit stop to sort the issue. This put them five laps down on the overall lead – a lead which was fortuitously gained just an hour earlier when the number 7 Toyota of pole-sitter Kazuki Nakajima was forced to retire due to electrical problems.

“It is heartbreaking,” Nakajima told the Toyota Racing website. “Somehow I thought maybe we could make it this time and then this happens. That’s Le Mans and that’s why we come here to take on the challenge. We will try again.”

Porsche 919 Hybrid, Porsche Team: Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber

In its return to Le Mans after a 16-year absence in the LMP1 category, Porsche’s squad headed by ex-F1 star Mark Webber was the next-in-line challenger in the number 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid. In fact the two squads were headed for a mighty showdown inside the final stretch when the Porsche suddenly slowed with an engine issue.

This meant Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Lapierre landed an unlikely podium in their Toyota, five laps off the pace.

A total of 54 cars started in the 82nd edition of Le Mans. Only 36 cars finished the race, while 15 retired and three were not classified.

For interests sake, of those three non-classified’s was Nissan’s ZEOD, a revolutionary hybrid electric race car that had the honour of running from Garage 56 at this year’s Le Mans (Garage 56 is reserved for cars that showcase innovative technology). Before retiring from gearbox failure, the ZEOD was able to complete a full lap of the 13.8km circuit under electric power alone, including a burst at over 300km/h down the Mulsanne Straight.

Nissan ZEOD RC makes history at Le Mans with all electric lap

There was so much hype ahead of the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans; thanks to new fuel efficiency regulations for LMP1, the engineering marvels which resulted and of course, the return of Porsche. In the end the spectacle lived up to, and exceeded expectations. Now just 364 days to wait for the next edition of this, the Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency.