Audi won their 12th 24 Hours of Le Mans on a weekend of action, drama and tragedy.
An emotional Tom Kristensen crossed the line to become a nine-time winner of the event and extend his impressive record as the most successful driver in the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, the Dane’s celebrations were muted after the death of his countryman, Allan Simonsen.
The #2 Audi of Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loic Duval finished a lap ahead of their nearest challenger, the #8 Toyota made up of ex-F1 drivers Anthony Davidson, Stephane Sarrazin and Red Bull Racing reserve Sebastien Buemi. The final podium spot saw a close battle between the #3 Audi and the #7 Toyota but the German manufacturer would come out on top when Nicolas Lapierre badly damaged his Toyota during a heavy rain shower.
The weather made for a chaotic race with a large number of safety car periods most notably the one for Simonsen, when the Dane crashed his Aston Martin just minutes into the race, later succumbing to his injuries.
OAK Racing finished one-two in the LMP2 category with Bertrand Baguette, Ricardo Gonzalez and Martin Plowman taking victory after an earlier scare when Baguette lost control in the wet conditions but recovered to win.
Second in LMP2 was Olivier Pla/Alex Brundle/David Heinemeier Hansson’s OAK Racing Nissan while IndyCar racer Mike Conway made it onto the podium with John Martin and Roman Rusinov.
It was a tough 100th anniversary race for Aston Martin, who despite mourning the loss of their driver Simonsen, continued in the hope of winning the race in tribute to the Dane.
However, the leading GT-Pro driver Frederic Makowiecki lost control of his Aston Martin and retired with terminal damage. It was then up to the Aston of Stefan Mucke/Darren Turner/Rob Bell and after catching the 92 factory Porsche of Richard Lietz, Marc Lieb and Pikes Peak entrant Romain Dumas, it looked like we were in for a thrilling finale.
Mucke’s Aston Martin made a gamble for wet tyres but it didn’t pay off and they lost a lap to Lieb’s Porsche, who went on to take Porsche’s first factory win since 1998.
The GT-Am series, a class that included American actor Patrick Dempsey, was also won by a Porsche. The all French team of Raymond Narac, Christophe Bourret and Jean-Karl Vernay took the win to give Porsche their 100th class victory at Le Mans.