Audi Sport Team Joest secured a 1-2 victory in the 82nd Le Mans 24 hours, With Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer racing the #2 car to victory ahead of the #1 Audi Sport Team Joest entry of Tom Kristensen, Marc Gene and Lucas Di Grassi.
Audi’s victory symbolises the first victory for the 2014 specification R18 E-tron Quattro, ahead of race favourites Toyota. The race was not a flawless one, heavy attrition throughout the field, Issues for all three of the factory LMP1 teams as well as Rebellion Racing led to what became a thrilling 24 hours of Le Mans.
The fun started on Saturday afternoon, with the early laps of the race being similar to a sprint race rather than an endurance event, then the rain fell and things dramatically changed. Lappiere, Bononomi and Sam Bird unfortunately got caught up in a worrying accident in poor conditions where by the Toyota, driven by Lappiere, aquaplaned and collected both the Audi LMP1 and the Ferrari GTE am entries, eliminating Audi #3 and the Ferrari 458 from the race.
From then on, we had a lot of attrition, pit stops and garage visits. Both remaining Audi’s spending prolonged time in the pits to exchange the turbocharger units, as well as adjusting the aerodynamic balance.
As the race progressed, Audi’s rivals also suffered issues with Toyota’s #7 entry stopped out on track around the 14 hour mark after dominating up front for a large percentage of the race, and the #8 car suffering various issues although ultimately finishing the race in 3rd.
Porsche’s debut at Le mans was rather successful if you consider that until Le Mans, Porsche had not been able to complete a six hour WEC round. For the cars to last into the 22nd and 23rd hour, was impressive. The #14 car had its fair share of issues throughout the race with the final issue that eventually brought it in being reportedly related to the gearbox. The car did however manage to re-enter the track on the final lap for a lap of honour.
The #20 car whilst running 2nd did lead the race on a couple of occasions, Unfortunately its race came to an end in the 23rd hour with electrical problems, which was a great shame for Neel Jani, Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard who put on a fantastic performance for Porsche.
Rebellion’s day at Le Mans was only the second ever race of the Rebellion R-ONE, The small privateer LMP1-l Team had one car retire whilst the #12, despite spending some time in the garage due to engine issues, did finish the race in an impressive 4th position.
In P2, the stars of the race really was the #35 Ligier JS P2 team run by Oak Racing. Alex Brundle put in an incredible stint in that car, and for the most part of the race, it ran upfront in class, often shadowed by the Thiriet by TDS racing JS P2 throughout the race. Unfortunately the car suffered mechanical issues late in the running and although it made it back to the garage, the problems continued. Thiriet by TDS had its own issues with the cars suspension which led to it retaking the lead, although as the Thiriet entry was repaired, and a charging JOTA Sport caught up, the Oak racing entry fell down the order and eventually pitted with JOTA passing both cars and claiming class victory.
In GTE PRO, the battle throughout the race was immense. Corvette, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche all had close battles throughout the 24 hour with the best battles between Aston Martin and Ferrari’s #51 entry, with the two dueling for several hours of the race.
The battle was interrupted at one point due to the pit stop sequence although it re-commenced in the early hours of this morning. Unfortunately due to the Aston Martin having mechanical issues and having to visit the pits, we never saw the true outcome to the battle, although huge congratulations go to AF Corse’s #51 entry.
In GTE AM, Aston Martin did secure victory with the #95 entry claiming class honours, the run was not clear for them either, with mechanical factors playing a crucial part although congratulations on overcoming and claiming the class win.
Overall the 24 hours of Le mans 2014 treated us with tales of attrition, immense on track battles, unusual reliability factors for the Prototype teams up front and a race that built throughout the 24 hours to come down to the chase from Audi on the Porsche’s. It was overall a fantastic race and I believe a Le Mans that will be remembered for the right reasons for long to come.