The 24 Hours of Le Mans 2012 was held 16-17 June at the 38-turn, 8.469 mile Circuit de la Sarthe in France.
This landmark edition of the famous 24 Heures du Mans was an enormous tribute to long endurance racing in which Audi came out on top. In addition to achieving the complete podium finish, it was the first victory for a hybrid car. After their main competitors were among the 21 cars that had to retire during the event, Audi got total grips on the race and, although hampered by minor incidents, completely dominated. The event was run under perfect weather conditions and was attended by a quarter of a million spectators.
The winning result was a repeat of last year’s podium with Marcel Faessler (CHE), André Lotterer (DEU) and Benoît Tréluyer (FRE) as the winning équipe. This trio gave Audi their eleventh win since the German manufacturer’s Le Mans debut in 2000. Over the 24-hour period, the winning car covered 378 laps, the equivalent of over 5,150 kilometres.
Reacting after the race, the Tréluyer stated that the team’s success was a reflection of the true team spirit within the Audi family: “This is super and we are really happy with our result. We maintained the same team – including the mechanics – for this year’s race because we all get along so well. We arrived feeling very prepared and sure of ourselves thanks to our winning result last year. With Marcel and André we make up a solid and united team so we want to fight for one another and for Audi. The hybrid project just served to motivate us even further. And having won a race like Les 24 Heures du Mans for the first time with a hybrid car is fantastic, it is a moment that will go down in history so we are feeling quite proud.”
Eight-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen finished just one lap short after 24 hours of racing and had to settle for second. As usual, the Dane shared his driving duties with Rinaldo “Dindo” Capello – the Italian celebrated his 48th birthday today – and Scot Allan McNish. As the runners-up in this weekend’s race, the trio recaptured the lead in the WEC drivers’ world championship.
In addition to Faessler’s win, there was more Swiss success in the LM P1 class, as Neel Jani and co-drivers took the Swiss Lola-Toyota to fourth place overall, the best result from a non-Diesel team. Jani, originally from the canton of St. Gallen, was partnered with Frenchman Nicolas Prost and German Nick Heidfeld.
The LM P2 class had more close racing as the top-three cars finished within two laps of one another with the Starworks Motorsports Honda prevailing. After winning the 12 Hours of Sebring earlier this spring, it was the American team’s second victory in their class for the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). The class winning Honda was closely followed by no less than five Nissan-powered prototypes. Since one member of every LM P2 team must be an amateur driver, and the governing body – the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile – is keeping the costs as low as possible, the LM P2 class is the most popular category, with no less than twenty almost equally-strong teams competing.
Exactly fifty years after the iconic Ferrari 250 GTO scored a double win in the GT class at the 1962 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Italian manufacturer again proved successful by winning the GTE-Pro class. The scarlet red cars, which debuted in Le Mans in 1949, racked up another class victory thanks to former Italian Formula One star Giancarlo Fisichella, who was joined by his compatriot Gianmaria Bruni and Finn Toni Villander.
Although they could not repeat their former success at the Circuit de La Sarthe in the GTE-Pro class, Corvette still won the GTE-Am category thanks to Larbre Competition. They narrowly beat the IMSA Performance Porsche after the German car got a tire puncture just minutes before the end of the race.
24 Hours of Le Mans 2012 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture and description)
[Source: Rolex Motorsports; photos: Rolex / Jad Sherif and Stephen Cooper; Audi AG; Porsche AG; Ferrari SpA]