LE MANS, FRANCE // The defending champions Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer overcame a series mistakes on Sunrday to win the Le Mans 24 Hours Race and give Audi their 11th title.
Audi consolidated second place for most victories at the world's most famous endurance race, five shy of Porsche's record. Their main rival, Toyota, took the lead in the fifth hour but fell out of contention after their two cars retired.
The winning trio in the Audi No 1 completed 378 laps in 24 hours, leading the Audi No 2 driven by Rinaldo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish by one lap.
"We were even better prepared than last year," Treluyer said. "We knew we were capable of winning. But to do it again is just magical."
Marco Bonanomi, Oliver Jarvis and Mike Rockenfeller finished third in Audi No 4, three laps back. Nicolas Prost drove the Toyota-powered Lola No 12 to fourth place, one lap clear of Loic Duval's Audi No 3.
The two leading Audis swapped the lead in the 14th hour when Fassler briefly surrendered top spot to McNish after spinning at the Porsche curves, where the car clipped the wall but only sustained light damage.
Fatigue combined with aggressive tactics led to driver mistakes that could have been costly for both Audis. Fassler skidded into the gravel in the 18th hour and needed to change the rear bodywork on his car.
Treluyer spun just before entering the pit lane in the 21st hour.
McNish was leading in the 22nd hour when he crashed into a wall at the Porsche curves, damaging the nose of his Audi No 2 and forcing the deployment of the safety car for the third time.
Toyota were not nearly as fortunate in avoiding major damage to their cars as the German manufacturer.
At the end of the fifth hour, Ferrari No 81 bumped into Toyota No 8, driven by Anthony Davidson, who was running third.
The Toyota became airborne before slamming into the tyre barrier, forcing the safety car to come out for the first time.
The race was held up for 75 minutes to clean up the track and remove the wreckage of both cars at the Mulsanne corner.
Davidson suffered fractures to two vertebrae in the crash but was in a stable condition and will remain in a hospital overnight.
"Well that was a big one! Lying in a French hospital with a broken back," Davidson tweeted.
"[It] wasn't what I had in mind at this stage in the race."
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