LE MANS, June 12 — Audi’s sole surviving works car fought a duel at dawn with Peugeot in the Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar race today with the rivals trading the lead through the pitstops.
After a chilly night at the La Sarthe circuit, dawn broke with the number two Audi lapping just a fraction faster than the three Peugeots running in close formation behind.
However, there was some concern about the Audi shared by Frenchman Benoit Treluyer, Switzerland’s Marcel Faessler and German Andre Lotterer after smoke was seen coming from the rear of the car after an otherwise routine pitstop.
While the Audi diesel was faster, it was also thirstier and requiring more frequent pitstops than the Peugeots.
Audi’s other two works contenders were destroyed in huge accidents involving slower Ferraris on Saturday, with Germany’s Mike Rockenfeller kept in hospital overnight.
Former British winner Allan McNish was lucky to escape unhurt when he clipped a slower Ferrari and crashed the number three Audi spectacularly in the opening hour, bringing out the safety car.
Rockenfeller then wrote off the number one R18 TDI when he hit another Ferrari while travelling at full speed on the fast stretch leading to Indianapolis with eight hours gone and darkness descending.
The safety car was deployed for the fourth time in the early hours after more crashes with full racing only resuming at around 0630 local (0430GMT).
It then came out again at around 0730 after an accident between a Corvette driven by Jan Magnussen and the Porsche 911 of Christian Reid.
Audi, in a battle with French rivals Peugeot, have won six of the last seven editions of the race and swept the front row in qualifying. — Reuters