Le Mans 24 Hour RacePosted on: 17 June 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
Audi win Le Mans for the eighth time in nine years after a thrilling race.
Tom Kristiensen claimed a record eighth victory at the Le Mans 24 Hour sportscar race on Sunday.
The Dane, driving the number two Audi with team-mates Rinaldo Capello of Italy and Scotland’s Allan McNish, completed 381 laps in a rain-affected race.
1) Tom Kristiensen (Den)/ Rinaldo Cappelo (Ita)/ Allan McNish (GB) – Audi
2) Jacques Villeneuve (Can)/ Marc Gene (Spa)/ Nicolas Minassian (Fra) – Peugeot
3) Franck Montagny (Fra)/ Christian Klien (Aut)/ Ricardo Zonta (Brz) – Peugeot
4) Lucas Luhr (Ger)/ Mike Rockenfeller (Ger)/ Alexandre Premat (Fra) – Audi
5) Pedro Lamy (Por)/ Stephanie Sarrazin (Fra)/ Alexander Wurz (Aut) – Peugeot
That was enough to finish less than a lap ahead of the number seven Peugeot of Frenchman Nicolas Minassian, Spaniard Marc Gene and Canada’s 1997 Formula One world champion Jacques Villenueve, who was bidding to win motor racing’s fabled Triple Crown.
In a gripping battle that will rank among the greatest ever in the 76 stagings of the 24 hours of Le Mans, Audi and Peugeot took it to the wire.
Villeneuve’s team finished four minutes 31.094 seconds behind the winning Audi team while Frenchman Franck Montagny, Christian Klien and Ricardo Zonta brought the number nine Peugeot home in third, two laps off the pace.
Peugeot had secured the top three places on Saturday’s starting grid, but wet racing conditions handed the advantage to Audi who picked up their fifth successive title.
Villeneuve won the Indianapolis 500 in 1995 and the F1 title two years later, but could only hold the lead for a few laps to finish second.
Peugeot got off to a flying start with its three cars in the lead during the first two hours but two faced electronic problems in the third hour.
The number eight car had to stop for 20 minutes in the pits because of a gearbox problem while the Peugeot number nine’s headlights gave out.
Kristiensen overtook Villeneuve’s team in the 15th hour on lap 234 when the Peugeot number seven was refuelling in the pits and by the morning, Audi’s advantage in the wet had left Kristiensen, Capello and McNish with a three-minute cushion.
The veteran Audi drivers' experience and consistency ensured they always kept at arm’s length despite Villenueve’s team chipping away at their lead for the remaining eight hours.
The Audi number two survived a scare in the 22nd hour after the diesel-powered car collided with a Zytek 07S, but carried on with no apparent damage to take the title.
McNish was delighted to take the crown, saying, “I’m very, very pleased and extremely proud.”
“We did it with our backs against the wall, but we did it.”
“We were a tad fortunate but there’s nothing wrong with a little luck, Peugeot have the faster cars but in the conditions we were the best and deserve to win.”
Villeneuve blamed the faster Peugeot’s handling for their second place finish.
“Our car is difficult. You get the power down coming out of the corners and it snaps around, which makes it harder to overtake the slower cars.”
Were you at Le Mans? Have you been to the circuit before? Did Audi deserve to take their eighth win in nine years? Share your thoughts in the 50connect forums.
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