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GP Week : Issue 15
I T has been described already as the greatest Le Mans 24 Hour race for a generation and, unlike recent years where the result has been a foregone conclusion since dawn on Sunday morning, this was a genuine race to the final laps. Tom Kristensen’s record eighth Le Mans 24 Hours victory, and Audi’s eighth in nine years came after a week dominated by Peugeot: the 908 was fastest in every session, breaking lap records in both qualifying and the race. The Audi win also provides Allan McNish with a second win, a decade after his first in the Porsche 911, and Dindo Capello with his third. “I’m very, very pleased and extremely proud,” said McNish. “We weren’t expected to be here at the end of the race but we’ve managed to take it. I hope the next one isn’t 10 years down the line.” Audi Motorsport chief Dr Wolfgang Ulrich added “I think Le Mans has not for a long time seen such a good race. It’s the effort of the whole team staying calm. Of trying to concentrate on the important things.” “They [Peugeot] are a really tough competitor. They did their best and gave us the biggest challenge we ever had.” U nexpected rain during the early hours of the morning was instrumental in helping Audi take the chequered flag in a race which had until that point been led almost exclusively by the Peugeots. Audi’s slicker pit stops, and Allan McNish’s four consecutive stints in the early hours gave the No.2 car the lead. The final heavy rain shower an hour from the end, left the chasing Peugeot of Nicolas Minassian with a strategic gamble of staying on slick tyres, but despite the Frenchman’s best effort’s he couldn’t keep the car on the road, and two extra pit stops in the final four laps left him a lap down and gifted the victory to Audi. In LMP2, the Van Merksteijn Motorsport Porsche RS Spyder gave the Dutch fans something to cheer about. With its main threat from John Neilsen’s Team Essex car, the two Porsche prototypes, making their Le Mans debuts, were involved in a close battle for the opening half of the race before the Danes lost five laps in the pits at around 4am. “The quality of the Porsche is great,” said Peter van Merksteijn. “This is the first time the car has raced at Le Mans. Unbelieveable!” The Corvette/Aston Martin battle in GT1 was won by the British marque. 24