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24 Heures du Mans

As the No.1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Andre Lotterer-Marcel Fassler-Benoit Treluyer took the chequered flag at exactly 1500 hours, Audi Sport today secured their 11th victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  But this was historic for a number of reasons as it was the first win at the world’s most famous endurance race by a hybrid-powered car, it was on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the 24 Hours, and it was the first year that the famous endurance race featured as a round of the new FIA World Endurance Championship. 

Audi filled all three places on the winner’s podium, with the No.2 Audi’s Tom Kristensen-Allan McNish-Dindo Capello in second and the conventionally diesel-powered No.4 Audi R18 ultra in third place.  Mike Rockenfeller-Oliver Jarvis-Marco Bonanomi were the drivers.

Breaking up the Audis, and finishing in fourth place after a display of amazing consistency and reliability, was the No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola Toyota of Neel Jani-Nicolas Prost-Nick Heidfeld.  Rounding out the top six was Le Mans newcomer JRM Motorsport whose No.22 HPD ARX-03a was in the reliable hands of former winner David Brabham, Peter Dumbreck and Karun Chandhok, the first Indian to compete in the Sarthe classic.

In LMP2, 12 of the 20 cars entered were still circulating after 24 hours which is a terrific achievement for all the teams involved in this privateer class. The best placed was the American No.44 Starworks Motorsport HPD ARX 03b entry, driven by 2011 class winner Tom Kimber-Smith with Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio followed by three Oreca Nissans operated by Thiriet by TDS Racing, Pecom Racing and Signatech Nissan. 

The GTE production-led class allowed the world’s leading luxury car manufacturers to display a great display of racing in the early stages of the race, with battles between Aston Martin, Corvette, Ferrari and Porsche.  However, in the end it was a dominant victory for Ferrari who took 1st, 2nd and 4th in class.  Having been completely re-built by the team in just one day following a testing accident, the No.51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia, in the hands of Gianmaria Bruni-Giancarlo Fisichella-Toni Vilander, finished two laps ahead of the No.59 Luxury Racing Ferrari and the No.97 Aston Martin Vantage.  It was a weekend to forget for the No.74 Corvette which had problem after problem following an impressive opening ten hours of racing, but the No.73 Chevrolet-powered car upheld some of the manufacturer’s honour on their 60th anniversary.

After a neck-and-neck battle in the GTE Am race between the No.50 Larbre Competition Corvette of Julien Canal-Pedro Lamy-Patrick Bornhauser and the No.67 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche of Anthony Pons-Raymond Narac -Nicolas Armindo, the former multiple-Le Mans-winning French team took the upper hand and recorded the victory.  For Julien Canal it is his third consecutive GTE Am victory. In third place was Krohn Racing’s Ferrari 458 Italia –Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson recording their third Le Mans podium finish and Michele Rugolo his first.

There were 21 official retirements, the most notable of which involved the two new Toyota TS030 Hybrids.  British driver Anthony Davidson in the No.8 Toyota was involved in a serious accident in the sixth hour which saw him taken to hospital with a back injury.  Fortunately he will be well enough to leave in a few days.  The other Toyota was also involved in the incident which ultimately saw the retirement from the race of the innovative Nissan DeltaWing.  

 

24 Heures du Mans

As Sunday arrives, so do problems for one of the most consistent teams in the race to date.  Oak Racing, which has the No.15 LM P1 Pescarolo Judd and the two Morgans – the No.24 powered by a Judd engine and the No.35 with a Nissan power plant – has run into problems, dropping them down the order.

Andre Lotterer remains in the lead of the race in the No.1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, with the delayed No.3 Audi now back in full healthy and lapping well.  In LM P2 the Starworks Motorsport No.44 HPD ARX 03b has taken the class lead for the first time, chased hard by the two Oreca Nissans of Pecom Racing and Signatech Nissan.  

Pit stops and driver changes are the only thing which seems to be shaking up the GTE Pro class as it is still Corvette who holds the top spot with the No.74.  AF Corse’s lead car is still in touch and is being pursued by the Luxury Racing Ferrari and the No.73 Corvette.  A notable retirement is the No.80, Flying Lizard Motorsport’s Porsche.  

Tommy Sadler, Flying Lizard Crew Chief said, “No.80 is done. Someone went through the first chicane and dropped gravel all over it and there were no flags out. Patrick got to the chicane and hit the gravel, went off and impacted the wall. The steering rack broke from the subframe most likely and we had an electric failure after fighting with the marshalls to restart the car. We kept stopping and starting and basically the battery has run down.” 

In GTE Am the No.67 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche leads

Photo : Arnaud CORNILLEAU – ACO/Nikon

Motorsports Mondial

TEAMS COLLECT VALUABLE INFORMATION DURING THE LE MANS TEST DAY  

At the Le Mans Test Day, the 56 cars invited to participate in the 80th edition of Les 24 Heures du Mans were able to make their final preparations for the actual race in two weeks time. Although, the timing was not official, at the end of the eight-hour test session it was Audi and Toyota LM P1 cars heading the classification. It was extremely close with the fastest cars separated by no more than a second. The same was true of the LM P2 and GTE classes, where again there were small margins between the leading cars. While all drivers had to run an obligatory ten laps to qualify, the main body of attention was on the large number of competitors experiencing the Circuit de la Sarthe for the first time.

As expected, the fastest lap times were set by the powerful LM P1 cars. After the four-hour morning session the top five cars were within one second of each other with the Audi of Loïc Duval just out in front. Rolex Ambassador Tom Kristensen was second fastest in the Audi Hybrid: “The car with its four wheel drive did wonderfully. In the morning we had some rain and that’s when you love Quattro technology.” The team from Toyota was surprisingly fast despite no previous experience at Le Mans. Former Formula 1 driver Sébastien Buemi from Switzerland adapted quickly, and came up only half a second short of the fastest lap on his first visit to the historic track. In the second session it was Audi’s Allan McNish who set the fastest time of the day, beating teammate Marcel Faessler by over a second. Alexander Würz was the best Toyota driver setting the fourth fastest time. Elsewhere in LM P1 group, the Strakka Racing Honda set a satisfyingly fast time in the morning, while the Lola-Toyota did well in the afternoon. Peter Dumbreck, one of the drivers of the debuting JRM team was just happy to have qualified: “This is all new to our team, but together with Brabham and Chandhok we made it without too many problems.”

In the LM P2 class there was a close battle too. Both in the morning and afternoon sessions, Nissan powered cars topped the timing charts, but were less than a second faster than the Honda powered prototypes. Although an overall winner here in the past, Martin Brundle could not deliver the speed he would have hoped for today. The 1988 Rolex 24 At Daytona and 1990 Les 24 Heures du Mans winner is partnered by his son Alex along with Spanish sports car veteran Lucas Ordonez, and, it was the younger Brundle, making his debut, who shone the brightest. Two Dutch drivers also making their first appearance at Le Mans had contrasting experiences. Yelmer Buurman in the Status Grand Prix Lola was among the faster cars, while Reiner van der Zande’s run was hampered by small electrical problems throughout the test; problems that kept the second Lola-Lotus in the pits for most of the day. Running in its own experimental class, the futuristic designed Nissan Delta Wing ran without major problems and set times comparable to the LM P2 cars.

In the morning the Ferraris once more showed their speed in the GTE Pro class as Frédéric Makowiecki stayed just ahead of former Formula 1 legend Giancarlo Fisichella. However, in the afternoon it was one of the yellow Corvettes driven by American Tommy Milner that led the classification. Another rookie to suffer a set-back today was Milner’s compatriot and fellow-Corvette driver, Jordan Taylor, who had the misfortune to crash his car late on: “I came in directly from Detroit where I won the GT class in the Detroit Rolex GRAND-AM Series race. I made my ten laps to qualify without problems, but lost it on the 12th lap.”

In the GTE Am class the Aston Martin with an all-Danish line were top of the time sheet closely followed by the Larbre Competition Corvette and the Flying Lizard Porsche. American Ferrari driver Brian Vickers enjoyed his first laps on the track, even though it was raining during part of his time behind the wheel: “In the beginning I had to find the right line and paid a lot of attention to the faster cars. After a couple of laps, I got the right feeling and lap times dropped significantly.” Later in the day, disaster almost struck as his partner Rui Aguas spun the Ferrari and damaged its bodywork.

All 56 qualified teams will now stay in Le Mans with initial scrutineering starting this coming Saturday. Practice for the 80th edition of this classic event begins on Wednesday, 13 June. Just three days later, on Saturday, 16 June the competing grid will get the green flag when the Rolex official timing clock shows three o’clock in the afternoon. 

Motorsports Mondial

Photo: dtmmedia

Mortara on top in Austria – maiden DTM race win

Spielberg. Picture-postcard weather, a thrilling race with numerous overtaking manoeuvres and two premieres on the winners’ podium: in front of 48,500 spectators, the DTM enjoyed a successful race weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria. With the first DTM race win of the year for Audi, Italian Edoardo Mortara became the overjoyed winner of the fourth season round. After a faultless race with great duels, the 25-year old made his dream come true and, after 203.322 kilometres, crossed the finish line as the winner for the first time in the DTM. “This is a great day for myself and for Audi. Pole position yesterday and victory today. It is almost unbelievable. I have already had some nice moments in motorsport, but this one is very special”, said the best DTM rookie of the year 2011 after his success in the longest DTM race in history to date.

Only one second later, Martin Tomczyk crossed the finish line. With his BMW M3 DTM, the reigning DTM champion started from fourth place on the grid, made his way up to finish second and scored 18 points in the battle for the title. After the race, the 30-year old said: “The timing of the second stop was perfect. I re-joined the field right behind the race leader. Today is a great day for the DTM. All three brands in the top three and a highly exciting race.”

British Mercedes-Benz driver Gary Paffett completed the podium. The points’ leader started from second place, battled for the lead and still had to let Tomczyk past after the latter’s pit stop. Paffett said: “We came to Spielberg to score as many points as possible for the championship. Finishing on the podium is great, even though, of course, I would rather have won. Fortunately, I was still able to extend my points’ lead.”

In the drivers’ standings, Paffett is now leading with 83 points from Mattias Ekström from Sweden (Audi), who finished fourth in Styria and now has 47 points to his tally. Brit Jamie Green (Mercedes-Benz) with 44 points and BMW driver Bruno Spengler from Canada with 43 points are also within striking distance. Green finished the race in fifth place, Spengler had to park his car and retire on lap 33.

With his Audi A5 DTM, Timo Scheider had a topsy-turvy race. Having started 16th, the 33-year old was able to make up positions, but lost ground again after tangling with BMW driver Augusto Farfus. Scheider battled and finished sixth after 47 laps. His fellow Audi drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Filipe Albuquerque as well as Joey Hand and Augusto Farfus (both BMW) rounded out the top ten. The next round takes place at the Norisring in Nuremberg, July 1st.

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of motorsport Audi: “Winning such a thrilling race is a particular joy. This was first-class promotion for the DTM, for the Red Bull Ring and for Audi. Here, our A5 DTM was the benchmark. We were on top in every practice session and Edo did a perfect job turning his maiden pole position into his first-ever race win. He had to work hard for this success, which was very important for all of us. The entire crew has been working in the last couple of weeks to be back on top again in the DTM.”

Jens Marquardt, BMW motorsport director: “A big compliment to Audi for their performance of today, but also to the great fans on the stands. Martin Tomczyk has shown a great performance, his crew an ideal strategy. Today, we had overtaking manoevres on the track and in the pit lane: everything that a great race needs. I reckon that this was one of the best DTM races of the last couple of years.”

Norbert Haug, head of motorsport Mercedes-Benz: “What we have seen today was a DTM gala. The stands were packed, the race was incredibly exciting. The battle for the lead was just fantastic. When two people quarrel, a third is often rejoicing. A duel costs time, so that Martin Tomczyk could benefit. Victory was within reach, but Gary was able to extend his points’ lead. Competition in the DTM is immensely close. Five of the first six-placed drivers did lap times of 1:27.00 minutes.”

Motorsports Mondial

Photo: dtmmedia

Second season victory: Paffett wins home race at Brands Hatch

Fawkham. At the moment, he is the man to beat in the DTM: with his DTM Mercedes AMG C-Coupé, Briton Gary Paffett dominantly won the third round of the year at Brands Hatch (GB). At this season’s first round of the most popular international touring car series outside of Germany, the 31-year old scored a lights-to-flag win in his home race. “This was a great race, everything was perfect. Although my start wasn’t that good, I remained in front and was able to bring victory home without any problems. It would be great when things go on like this”, said Paffett, who already won the season opener at Hockenheim and now has 19 DTM race wins to his tally.

Bruno Spengler was also overjoyed having crossed the finish line after 97 laps to finish second with his BMW M3 DTM. The Canadian looked set to drive an undisputed second place home until ten laps before the end. Then, a front splitter broke on his car and the 28-year old had to defend his place from Mike Rockenfeller, who was behind him with the Audi A5 DTM. “I had a good race and tried to overtake Gary, but he didn’t make any mistakes. After the front splitter was broken, I lost downforce and I had to be careful. That enabled Rockenfeller to put me under pressure. Fortunately, it still was enough for me”, said Spengler. With 43 points, he is closest behind points’ leader Paffett, who is leading tzhe drivers’ standings with 68 points. Mattias Ekström (Audi) is third with 35 points.

With his Audi A5 DTM, Mike Rockenfeller made up one position at the start. The 28-year old German successfully defended his position against the attacks from reigning DTM champion Martin Tomczyk (Audi) and managed to score a podium finish by coming home third. Rockenfeller commented after the race: “The result is very important for Audi and gives a boost to the entire team. At the end, I still tried to get past Bruno, but I didn’t want to risk everything, because the points for third place were very important to me.”

Swede Mattias Ekström (Audi) finished fifth behind Tomczyk. Christian Vietoris dropped back from second to ninth after a poor start. The Mercedes-Benz driver fought back and took the chequered flag in sixth place. Spaniard Miguel Molina (Audi), Briton Jamie Green (Mercedes-Benz) and the two Audi drivers Edoardo Mortara (IT) and Filipe Albuquerque (PT) rounded out the top ten.

In total, 27,000 fans attended the racing weekend in Kent County in the south-east of Great Britain. The next round takes place at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, June 3rd.

Norbert Haug, head of motorsport Mercedes-Benz: “Now that was a really thrilling race and I am really delighted with this victory. It would be great when we can continue this series. Gary split up the race the way he needed it. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a walk in the park, because one has to remain incredibly focussed. After his poor start, Christian Vietoris has made up positions and finished sixth. That is something you first have to achieve at a track like this.”

Jens Marquardt, BMW motorsport director: “Bruno had a great start and moved up into second place. He put pressure on and was able to keep this up. After his front splitter was broken, we had problems with the aerodynamics of the vehicle. But Bruno did a great job in bringing his second place home. That was a very strong performance! The second podium after three races already is not what we had expected beforehand.”

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of motorsport Audi: “Today, we have made the best out of our possibilities. Especially Mike Rockenfeller and Miguel Molina were very quick in the race. The podium reflects the current situation in the DTM: all three manufacturers are competing at an identical level. It is a matter of tenths, hundredths and thousandths. Rocky’s third place gives the entire team an additional boost. Mattias Ekström has moved up to third place in the standings.”

Motorsports Mondial

 

Photo: DTMmedia

MikeRockenfeller claims maiden DTM pole in Great Britain.

Fawkham. Fawkham. A relief for the DTM fans. The four weeks’ summer break is over and Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller got the first applause. The 27-year old German outpaced the opposition in qualifying for the seventh DTM season round at Brands Hatch (GB) and will be starting from pole position on Sunday. “I am really happy, because I hadn’t expected this. We picked the right strategy, we gambled a little bit and thus had fresher tyres for the final heat. We are well prepared for the race”, said the fastest man of the day. ’Rocky’ completed his lap of the 1.929 kilometres short circuit, the shortest on the DTM calendar, in 42.090 seconds and thus ended up ahead of Mercedes-Benz driver Gary Paffett, who was second (42.288 seconds). For Rockenfeller, it is the maiden pole of his DTM career. For Audi, it is the first pole at Brands since 2008.

Paffett commented after his thrilling duel with Rockenfeller: “Here, it is always very close. The track is really short and one has to be 100 percent committed. I am happy to have made it into second place, particularly in front of my fans here in Great Britain.”

German Martin Tomczyk was also happy. With his 2008-spec Audi A4 DTM, he claimed third place on the grid. With his AMG Mercedes C-Class in fourth place, Jamie Green will be lining up alongside the runner-up in the drivers’ standings. Swede Mattias Ekström (Audi) will be starting from fifth place.

Points’ leader Bruno Spengler was twice unhappy in the battle for the starting grid positions. In sixth place, the Canadian Mercedes-Benz driver failed to make it into the final heat and on top of that, he was docked two places on the starting grid as a penalty for having used an unmarked set of tyres in second free practice on Saturday morning. Now, the 28-year old will try to make his way up into the race from eighth place on the grid. “That isn’t a drama, but eighth place is worse than first. Fortunately, I have 98 laps to improve”, said Spengler.

The two times’ DTM champion of 2008 and 2009, Timo Scheider (Audi) and Scot David Coulthard (Mercedes-Benz) were also disappointed as they got out of their cars after qualifying. Scheider will be starting from twelfth place, ’DC’ ended up 16th.

Five DTM drivers are having a home race at the circuit near London. With Susie Stoddart, Jamie Green, Gary Paffett and David Coulthard (all Mercedes-Benz) and Oliver Jarvis (Audi), British drivers make up almost one third of the DTM field.

The seventh DTM round of the season will cover 98 laps and a total distance of 189.042 kilometres. Because of the broadcasting of the Athletics World Championship, the race starts at 15.00 h German time. ARD will be broadcasting live from 14.40 h.