Audi has won the 80th Le Mans 24 Hours, claiming its 11th victory in 13 years and taking a clean sweep of the podium – it was a two-pronged attack by the German company, with its new diesel-hybrid challenger taking the top two positions ahead of the Ultra-branded diesel version. A strong early challenge by Toyota's more sonorous petrol-hybrid was cut short, first by a horrible crash by lead-driver Anthony Davidson, then by mechanical breakage.
However, it was Andre Lotterer that won Le Mans in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro to win his second Le Mans. Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello's e-tron finished second, with the R18 Ultra of Mike Rockenfeller, Oliver Jarvis and Marco Bonanomi rounding out the podium.
No one was surprised that Audi won, but clearly the German team was taking the challenge from Toyota seriously, especially when the Japanese team took the lead with Sebastian Buemi driving briefly a few hours in. But the Toyota challenge wilted following Anthony Davidson's huge crash at the end of the Mulsanne Straight.
He was attempting to pass the Ferrari 458 of Pierguiseppe Perazzini when
the Ferrari appeared to move across the Toyota's bows and the two collided. Davidson's
Toyota crashed heavily into the tyre barriers, while the Ferrari also hit the
tyres and landed on its roof.
Davidson looked to be okay, but was hospitalised, where he was found to have broken his back in two places.
It wasn't an easy run to victory for Audi, though. Allan McNish crashed in the Porsche Curves when lying second in the 22nd hour. He had to pit, losing a lap to the leading Audi of Benoit Treluyer. Marc Gene alsoÂ crashed on the Mulsanne Straight, sustaining damage to the car. The incidents left Treluyer comfortably ahead with two and a half hours to go, and the R18 e-tron quattro ended up keeping hold of the lead until the chequered flag.
It was an emotional and well-deserved victory for Audi, though, as well as an historic first win for a hybrid powered car.