Audi in control after first hour at Le Mans
LE MANS, France, June 16 – Audi’s quest for a first Le Mans victory for a hybrid car stayed on track in the opening stages of the 24-hour endurance race today with the defending champions filling the top two places.
With one hour gone on the clock, the hybrid R18 cars were setting the pace after German Andre Lotterer led cleanly away from pole position in the number one Audi e-tron quattro.
Two-time Le Mans winner Allan McNish jumped Toyota’s Stephane Sarrazin off the line and then took second place from Loic Duval, in an Audi R18 ultra.
The Scot, who was involved in a spectacular crash last year, lost focus when he rumbled across the grass at Tertre Rouge but stayed in control of his car.
Frenchman Duval had to make successive stops and dropped to fifth between the two hybrid Toyotas of Austrian Alex Wurz in third and Sarrazin in fourth.
In the LMP2 category, France’s Olivier Pla held the lead for the Oak Racing team with former Le Mans winner and ex-Formula One driver Martin Brundle running in 17th in the Zytek Z11SN.
The innovative Nissan-powered DeltaWing was 29th after one stop but the concept car will not be classified.
The sleek car, reminiscent of a ‘Batmobile’, has been invited to race at Le Mans to showcase new technologies, including a smaller engine and four-inch front wheels.
Audi won last year’s race with a diesel-powered car, their 10th victory in the last 12 years at the event. This year’s race is the 80th edition of the sportscar classic at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Toyota, competing with a petrol-electric hybrid car, are making their return to Le Mans for the first time in 13 years. They finished second in their last appearance in 1999. – Reuters