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GP Week : Issue 120
Against the odds, and perhaps the hopes of the entire French nation, Audi once again came out on top after 24 enthralling hours of Le Mans. It was unclear leading up to the event how the battle between Peugoet and Audi would play out, but in years gone by, it has always been Peugoet who had found outright lap pace, and Audi who held the endurance pace and strategy smarts. For the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hour however, the beautiful new Audi R18 had both cards up its sleeve, giving Peugoet a massive mountain to overcome if they wanted to add another 24 Hour trophy to their cabinet. The Number 2 Audi of Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler wasn’t the favourite Audi to win the race, but soon had the entire German nation riding on its shoulders as its two sister team cars exited the race in spectacular fashion. The biggest of these shunts saw Allan McNish’s car clip a lapped Ferrari, it the tyre wall, then snap into a violent roll – with parts of the car clearing the spectator fencing. With three charging Peugoets breathing down its neck, many predicted the lone Audi would get swamped by the French giant’s weight of numbers, led by the #9 908 of Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais and Pedro Lamy, but the Audi just kept on racing, and quickly at that, on its way to keeping the Peugeots at bay and taking the outright LMP1 class with great speed, and a final, gutsy decision to sacrifice on-track time for new rubber. It was also the fourth smallest winning margin in the history of the 24 Heurs Du Mans. Apart from the ‘edge of your seat’ racing at the front, there were many other class victories at La Sarthe. Taking the silverware in the LMP2 class was the Grevas Motorsport Zytek of Tom Kimber-Smith, Karim Ojjeh and Olivier Lombard, out manoeuvring their rivals not through outright pace, but through consistency and endurance. Corvette once again showed how strong they were when it came to endurance racing with the American icon taking both the Pro and Amateur classes in the GTE field. The Pro winning car of Antonio Garcia, Tom Milner and Olivier Beretta showed reliability when it was needed most while main rivals BMW fell out of contention. LE MANS 24 HRS >>