Audi scores its fifth Le Mans 24 Hours race victory
Date: Monday, June 20, 2005 @ 00:29:14 BST
Author: audioc
Topic: Audi in Motorsport
Audi scored its fifth Le Mans 24 Hours race victory when Tom Kristensen, JJ Lehto and Marco Werner steered their Team ADT Champion Racing Audi home in the 73rd running of the famous sportscar endurance classic.

Kristensen, from Denmark, and co-drivers JJ Lehto (Fin) and Marco Werner (D) took the chequered flag two-laps ahead of the pole-starting Pescarolo of Frenchmen Emmanuel Collard/Erik Comas/Jean-Christophe Boullion to record an American team’s first Le Mans triumph since 1967.

“It was an honour to drive the Audi R8 and achieve most of my victories with this car," commented Kristensen. "I had a great team plus good team-mates. Although I now may have more wins than Jacky Ickx, he is a great personality and is absolutely unique - he will always be ‘Mr Le Mans’. He called me before the race to wish good luck and now I can’t wait to see him again.

"Every race at Le Mans is unique and tough. But this was for sure one of the toughest ones. I have already been unbelievably fortunate to win this race seven times but I hope my luck holds and I can come back again with Audi, depending on their plans, and add to that score. It's a special race.”

Britain’s Allan McNish claimed a consolation third place in the “sister” Audi UK supported Champion Audi dispute a 22-minute pit-stop for accident repairs that cost the Scotsman any chance of victory.

McNish, who qualified his Audi R8 third on the 49-car grid, crashed out of second place approaching two-thirds distance when a tyre suddenly delaminated at high-speed.

The 35-year-old Dumfries ace, sharing his Audi UK-supported R8 sportscar with Emanuele Pirro (It) and Frank Biela (D), had spectacularly clawed back to within one minute of the “sister” Champion Audi of eventual winner Kristensen.

“I ‘locked-up’ under braking for an earlier corner, the tyres were getting old and I’d been pushing very hard,” commented a crestfallen Allan who won the French “marathon” in 1998. “The tread came off at Indianapolis Corner and I was helpless - it’s even more upsetting because I was actually making a scheduled pit-stop the end of that lap.

“It took four minutes to get dragged out of the gravel trap and back to the pits and a further 18 minutes to repair the front suspension which dropped us to third, six laps behind the lead Audi.”

The McNish Audi had taken the lead after 2½ hours when both front-row starting Pescarolo cars encountered problems but lost three minutes with a pit-stop an hour later.

Allan, who completed three stints lasting a total of 8hr 38mins, continued: “Emanuele slid off at slow speed in to the barriers at Arnage following a Safety Car period which necessitated repairs. We dropped off the lead lap after seven laps but hard driving had gradually got us back in to contention during the night and early hours.

“A regulation change meant all three Audi R8s carried 50 kilograms of ballast while the power was further restricted by 30bhp handing the latest generation of sportscars, like the Pescarolo, a clear and definite advantage. We were almost 15mph slower down the Mulsanne Straight than last year.

“That makes Audi’s success this year even more praiseworthy and remarkable and this was essentially down to its already proven reliability and fuel-saving FSI technology.”

The “French” Audi of Jean-Marc Gounon/Franck Montagny/Stéphane Ortelli claimed fourth position to net Audi a remarkable 1-3-4 result in the Audi R8’s final Le Mans appearance.

The twice round-the-clock race, which saw just 27 cars classified at the finish, was run in intense heat with daytime temperatures in excess of 32 degrees Celsius and in front of a record-equalling 230,000 crowd including an estimated 75,000 Britons.

"This is a fantastic result," said Dr Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of AUDI AG, who had started the race. "There is no way for a more impressive demonstration of the slogan ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ in motorsport than at Le Mans. To clinch the fifth Le Mans victory in more difficult conditions than in previous years is a remarkable feat. It was only possible thanks to the unique reliability of the Audi R8. Congratulations to the members of Audi Sport, to the team of Audi USA and, of course, to Tom Kristensen who is now finally the ‘King of Le Mans’. This weekend, we have seen once more the excitement and the worldwide interest in the Le Mans race. Hence we want to continue meeting this challenge in the future. It is no secret that a new sports prototype is under development at Audi Sport for the 2006 season. However, we will define the details of our motorsport programme for next year delete in the autumn.”


2 E COLLARD/J-C BOULLION/E COLLARD (Pescarolo), - 2 laps
3 F BIELA/ E PIRRO/A McNISH (Audi R8), -6 laps
5 O BERETTA/O GAVIN/J MAGNUSSEN (Chevrolet Corvette) -21 laps
6 R FELLOWS/J O’CONNEL/M PAPIS (Chevrolet Corvette) -23 laps (Photos will be placed in the motorsport gallery shortly)

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