Audi achieves record victory at Le Mans with new technology
• First Le Mans exploit with Variable Turbine Geometry (VTG)
• New distance record thanks to efficiency and reliability
• All three Audi R15 TDI cars in top three places
For the ninth time Audi has won the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans and thus equalized Ferrari’s position in the roll of honor in the French endurance classic. Only Porsche’s track record reflects more victories.
At the 78th edition of the race, efficiency and reliability were the decisive factors yet again - both are special fortes of the Audi brand which has a reputation of developing highly efficient automobiles. The three Audi R15 TDI cars of Audi Sport Team Joest ran without the slightest technical problems over the entire distance and occupied the top three places after the fastest Le Mans race of all time. After 2000, 2002 and 2004, Audi thus managed to achieve a one-two-three triumph at Le Mans for the fourth time.
"Everyone at Audi can be proud of this historic exploit. Reliability, efficiency and sustainability are particularly important topics for car manufacturers today. And these are exactly the areas in which we have demonstrated our expertise this weekend," commented Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler, who witnessed the captivating race live on location. "It was one of the most thrilling races in Le Mans history, a do-or-die battle. This one-two-three victory is the fourth 1-2-3 for Audi at Le Mans and no doubt the most valuable victory claimed after the fiercest battle in our company’s history. I express my thanks and great respect to the entire squad. They have performed an incredible and flawless feat of energy. Peugeot was a formidable rival who required us to give everything. We express our respect to the French squad for this."
"After taking third place last year, it was our declared aim to bring the Le Mans trophy back to Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm, and we managed to do this in an impressive way," said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "I’m incredibly proud of this squad and sincerely thank the entire team and everyone who has contributed to this achievement."
The ninth triumph - in total - of the brand at Le Mans was also made possible by a technology which Audi Sport developed for racing during the past three years in strict secrecy: the V10 TDI engine of the Audi R15 TDI with an approximate power output of 440 kW has a turbo-charger with Variable Turbine Geometry (VTG).
VTG turbo-chargers are standard with Audi TDI engines in production vehicles. Their use at Le Mans helps the Audi engineers to continue to develop the technology for smaller, highly efficient turbo engines to be used in the future. "At Le Mans we’re dealing with temperatures above 1,000 degrees centigrade which have not been encountered with production engines so far," explains Ulrich Baretzky, Head of Engine Development at Audi Sport. "As a result of downsizing, production development will enter into similar temperature ranges. This makes VTG another good example of how the technology transfer between motorsport and the production side of the house works at Audi."
In 2010 the demands made on diesel engines were particularly high due to the restrictions imposed by the regulations. "Squeezing higher output out of the engines without sacrificing reliability posed a great challenge which our team mastered in an outstanding manner," said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich after the race. "We did not use the full potential of the V10 TDI engine this year in order to be absolutely on the safe side. That’s why it was clear to us even before the race that we wouldn’t have the fastest car - but a very reliable and efficient one. The development objective of the R15 plus was 20 percent higher efficiency. We managed to achieve this. We’ve been working very hard for this exploit over the past few months. This makes this success, which was enabled by a perfect team performance as well, even more rewarding."
The victorious Audi R15 TDI with Timo Bernhard (Germany), Romain Dumas (France) and Mike Rockenfeller (Germany) completed a total of 397 laps in the 24 hours. With the covered distance of 5,410 kilometers, the trio broke the 1971 record set by Dr. Helmut Marko and Gijs van Lennep in the Porsche 917 that was considered unbeatable because the Hunaudières straight at that time had no chicanes - another demonstration of the performance capabilities of Audi TDI technology.
Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Mike Rockenfeller drove an absolutely flawless race on their way to their first Le Mans victory and the new historic record. Except for a slow puncture shortly before the end of the race and a right-hand mirror that had come off, the race went without the slightest problems for the winners. Second place was taken by Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Treluyer on whose R15 TDI the front bodywork had to be changed twice after contact with the track barriers.
The 2008 winners, Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish, who were the best-placed Audi team in the early phase, were struck by major misfortune. Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen had to evade a slow GT2 vehicle on Saturday night and slid backwards against the track barrier of the Porsche corners in the process. With fast lap times, Capello, Kristensen and McNish pushed back into the group of the front runners and in the end were rewarded with a podium result.
For the full official results click here to open a PDF
Quotes after the race:
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "I am convinced that this was the most difficult Le Mans victory for Audi. We had the strongest competitors one can imagine. We did not start the weekend in a perfect way, but we worked together to reach a very good level quickly. From the outset we planned our strategy to do as long stints as possible and we used every opportunity that was offered with efficiency and reliabilty to achieve our goal. All drivers have shown a great performance and brought this historic 1-2-3 victory home for Audi. The team has worked perfectly. Thanks to everyone who made this dream result possible for Audi!"
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): "I can not even describe my feelings yet. This Le Mans race will go down in history. And not just because of the new distance record. But because we live in motorsport at a time in which the reliability is actually not in question. Nobody retires nowadays. The cars normally last. It’s all about who is fast and who is slower. But I have not seen here for ages that such a high pace was demanded. On Friday, I said that I would be happy to watch this Le Mans race as a spectator - just to watch because I was expecting an awsome race. And that’s what it has become. We concentrated on our strengths: reliability and consistency. We wanted to apply pressure - and we managed to. We propably forced our opponents to risk more than they wanted. So they got problems. That it would turn out so extreme for them was unexpected. Nobody could have written such a story book as it eventually turned out. These feelings that come up within seconds are gigantic. Team Joest and Audi Sport form a team at Le Mans for years and have now grown so together that I can say: No matter what is to come, I do not worry anymore. No matter what comes back to the pits: A great job is done there. Also the driver teams were strong. There were new drivers here and some that had been with us for the first time last year. The three cars we had were evenly matched this time, which many had missed last year. Everyone was there for one another. When problems arose - and all the difficulties came from the outside, never from ourselves - the others stepped in. Amazing!"
Timo Bernhard (Audi R15 TDI #9): "It’s incredible! As a child it was always my dream to go to Le Mans. In 2002 I won the GT class, which was already a first step towards my big goal, the overall victory. The fact that I’ve achieved this so early at the age of 29, I can not yet really realize. It is crazy! It will probably still take one or two days until I really know what we achieved. We had a great race without any problems on the car. The Audi R15 TDI has been running perfectly. Mike (Rockefeller), Romain (Dumas) and I have been pushing right from the start. This has paid off. In the end the fight with the Peugeot was getting tighter. But I am convinced that we would have kept the lead anyway - over the distance we just had the right package."
Romain Dumas (Audi R15 TDI #9): "This day is hard to describe. I was sure that there was a chance of winning. Even though the chance might have been small. And this weekend was not only about us drivers. I thank the team,the mechanics and engineers who ensured that everything was great. Thanks also to my teammates. We have shared information among us. We had great help in the race. That was very important. The intelligence of the team was remarkable. All worked together, no one made a mistake. This has paid off in the end. Now we have won the cup back, and that was the goal. I am very satisfied."
Mike Rockenfeller (Audi R15 TDI #9): "It is simply incredible. I am overwhelmed. It was always my big dream, my goal to win Le Mans. At the beginning I had a difficult time at Audi. Now I’m grateful that they had confidence and believed in me. Finally I managed to win, with Timo (Bernhard) and Romain (Dumas). Thank you to everyone. My thanks to Audi, to the Joest team, our crew. Great!"
Marcel Fässler (Audi R15 TDI #8): "What a result after an awesome race! I think nobody expected a triple victory. Incredible! We said to ourselves: We just have to go steady, make no mistakes, and then there will be some reward for us. But that the reward would be like this no one would have thought."
André Lotterer (Audi R15 TDI #8): "We did not expect this: first, second and third place! I am not so long with Audi yet but I am happy for everyone, for the brand, for the team. You can not imagine how much effort the mechanics put into this race. How long they work hard for it. Our race was good. We lost a few seconds due to little things. But otherwise everything was perfect. The car ran like clockwork."
Benoît Treluyer (Audi R15 TDI #8): "A very good result because the race has been difficult. Our opponents Peugeot were very fast. It was challenging, not to make mistakes and still be fast enough. to combine both, was anything but easy. It was not easy for any of the three Audi R15 TDI cars. Now we are all standing on the podium. We are very happy for our team."
Dindo Capello (Audi R15 TDI #7): "It was a very difficult race. We gave away time during the first race hour just due to the unlucky pace car situation. After that everything was ok. We just tried to stay close to Peugeot and we never gave up, we pushed from the beginning until the end. It was bad luck Tom got caught with the BMW. It cost us the chance to fight for the overall victory - it was impossible for car #7 to do any better. But I’m very happy for Audi. Congratulations to everyone! Today was an awesome result for the four rings."
Tom Kristensen (Audi R15 TDI #7): "It has been absolutely fantastic for Audi. Le Mans gives and takes. There is triumph, there is tragedy. This year showed it. Personally I am very proud to be on the winning team. Allan (McNish), Dindo (Capello) and I could have been better as we were the leading Audi when I had the incident with Andy Priaulx. But it is a little bit like a soccer team: When we win we win together. And like on a soccer team everybody will be very happy. But the people who will be most happy will be the ones who score the goals. Today it was a deserved win for Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard and Mike Rockenfeller. They drove very efficiently into the winning circle at Le Mans. And between triumph and tragedy: The car which wins Le Mans is the best car."
Allan McNish (Audi R15 TDI #7): "I’ve not been involved in a Le Mans like this one in my 10 previous starts. It turned on its head two or three times. From an Audi point of view it was an unbelievable result because we didn’t have the outright pace of Peugeot but Audi had the efficiency and reliability plus the team, structure, drivers and engineers that knew, from experience, how to win Le Mans. The result of our car was dictated by Tom’s incident with Andy Priaulx which was frustrating. But our fight back was intense and we can all be very proud - but that doesn’t mean to say that we can forget about the performance of our French friends as we now must focus on the Intercontinental Cup."