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Christopher Bruce2012-06-17 14:53:41

Le Mans Race Report: The Year of the Hybrid

The Toyota crash was was horrific but both drivers were safe

The 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans had an exciting first half followed by a quiet second half. Regardless, it is the first time ever that a hybrid car has won the 24 hour race, let alone two. Audi dominated the entire race from literally the waving of the green flag. In the lower classes the Oak Racing cars held the lead in LMP2 for the first half of the race until the Starworks HPD-ARX-03b208 1.2 VTi ActivePeugeot 208 1.2 VTi ActiveFrance, 2012 > present1 photo
took over at 1am and stayed there through the rest of the race. The GTE-Pro race was easily the most interesting of the day. Early on, the #74 CorvetteCorvette C6.RChevrolet Corvette C6.RUnited States of America, 2012 > present3 photos
and #97 Aston MartinVantage GTEAston Martin Vantage GTEUnited Kingdom, 2012 > present4 photos
1 video
scrapped back and forth for a few hours until the Aston Martin began falling down in places. Then late in the night, around the race's mid-point the Corvettes started falling apart. Both the #73 and #74 suffered damage causing extensive time in the garage. It transformed a sure victory into an impossible one. In GTE-Am, the pole setting Flying Lizard Motorsport Porsche911 GT3 RSRPorsche 911 GT3 RSRGermany, 2011 > present10 photos
led early but eventually dropped down. It was replaced by the #50 Larbre Competition CorvetteCorvette C6.RChevrolet Corvette C6.RUnited States of America, 2011 > present3 photos
1 video
and #67 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche fought for basically the entire race. 

The four Audis finished in formation with the final order being Audi R18 E-tron QuattroR18 e-tron quattroAudi R18 e-tron quattroGermany, 2012 > present8 photos
2 videos
#1, Audi R18 E-tron Quattro #2 and the #4 Audi R18 UltraR18 ultraAudi R18 ultraGermany, 2012 > present11 photos
2 videos
. The #3 R18 Ultra was unable to catch up to the rest of the team but still finished in fifth place. The #12 Rebellion Racing HPD ARX-03aHPD ARX 03aHonda HPD ARX 03aJapan, 2012 > present2 photos
1 video
split the Audis and finished in fourth place. The #1 Audi completed 378 laps. 

For awhile, it appeared that Toyota had a legitimate chance of taking a podium in the race. At there highest points at 7:00pm, the ToyotasTS030 HYBRIDToyota TS030 HYBRIDJapan, 2012 > present5 photos
2 videos
were in second and third place. Then at 8:05pm Anthony Davidson in the Toyota had a massive crash sending him and the #81 AF Corse Ferrari458 Italia GTCFerrari 458 Italia GTCItaly, 2011 > present5 photos
1 video
into the tire wall at the end of the Mullsanne straight. Nobody was really at fault for the crash. Davidson went inside of the Ferrari on the corner, and the Ferrari did not see him. It was a racing incident but a bad one. 

That crash brought out a safety car period for over an hour. Davidson was conscious but in pain after the accident. The crash fractured his T11 and T12 vertebrae. 

As soon as the safety car went in, the other Toyota nearly went out. Driver Kazuki Nakajima was attempting to get around an Audi as soon as the safety car had went in. He did not see the DeltawingDeltaWingNissan DeltaWingJapan, 2012 > present19 photos
3 videos
on his right when attempting the pass and slammed into it, which sent it into the wall. Deltawing driver Satoshi Motoyama attempted to repair the car to get it into the pits and was unable to. The Toyota was also damaged and was in and out of the garage several times over the next hours to repeatedly try to repair the damage. The team called the race at 1:51am. 

After that the LMP1 race was over. Audi cruised to victory up front. Sure, the cars had some minor issues and spun once or twice, but there was no real competition. The only interesting thing left was the #3 Audi that had crashed into the tire barrier before Davidson's crash. It made it back to the garage but took a long time to be repaired putting it several laps down. The car raced through the last part of the evening and to the end of the race challenging for fourth place and would have made the race an Audi 1-2-3-4 finish. 

The LMP2 class was initially dominated by Oak Racing both from their NissanMorgan NissanOAK Racing Morgan NissanFrance, 2012 > present1 photo
- and JuddMorgan JuddOAK Racing Morgan JuddFrance, 2012 > present5 photos
1 video
-powered cars. Then the Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03-NissanOreca 03 NissanOreca Oreca 03 NissanFrance, 2011 > present2 photos
took over from 11:00pm to 12:00am. Then the Starworks ARX-03b took over the front from 1:00am to the end. 

The GTE-Pro class was really the one to watch. The #74 Corvette and #97 Aston Martin had one of the best shows in endurance racing history. From the start of the race at 3:00pm to about 6:00pm. At points the #51 AF Corse joined the fight and was even in first for awhile. Eventually the Corvette won out and held the lead until after 1:00am. Then it all started falling apart. One Corvette had its wheel improperly installed  It fell off damaging the car and making it limp back to the pits. The other spun damaging the front. The #74 also needed a new gearbox. All of that action for the top team allowed the #51 AF Corse to slide into first place. The #59 Luxury Racing Ferrari was behind it, three laps down, and the #97 Aston Martin was one lap behind the Luxury Racing car. Keep in mind the #51 AF Corse Ferrari was crashed in practice and completely rebuilt during qualifying. It started from last on the grid and is now in first. 

When will Audi stop winning?

When will Audi stop winning?

© photo courtesy of: Audi

If they had been in higher classes, the GTE-Am #67 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche and #50 Larbre Competition fought through the entire race and were separated by just a lap at the end. They were still swapping positions with 15 minutes left of the race, but the Porsche slowed down for the finish. The Larbre Competition Corvette won in the end. 

There were 20 retirements from the race this year of 56 cars originally entered. Although the Dome JuddS102.5Dome S102.5Japan, 2012 > present1 photo
1 video
was 173 laps down in the LMP1 class and should probably be considered a retirement. 

For a moment let's look at the future, the Toyota TS030 performed well. Both of its issues were at least partially related to the driver. Davidson could have waited to pass the Ferrari, but it was not really his fault. Nakajima really should have been more patient instead of immediately attacking. As the team builds skill, it could become much more competitive. 

Also, what will 2014 look like? Toyota says that Le Mans is a three-year plan. That puts them there for 2014. PorschePorschePorscheGermany, 1931 > present43 models
4654 photos
29 videos
will enter in 2014, and we can assume Audi will be there as well. Also the new rules are wide open. The ACO limited cars by fuel economy not by the engine. Teams are free to use any displacement in any configuration as long as they meet the fuel economy standard. It could make for great racing. 

If you missed any of our live coverage, you can read it all here

R18 e-tron quattroR18 e-tron quattro
V 6 (120º vee)
226 cu in
Top Speed
202 mph
6, sequential manual
Maximum power
510 hp
Diesel / Electric
Fuel consumption (combined)
annual ownership cost

1 comment

What I liked the most was Toyota's performance. To be their return to motor racing they did well. What I missed the most was Peugeot. It's a shame when a new brand enters another leaves. Nice summary :)
17.06.2012 @ 16:31


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