Audi dominate Le Mans 24 Hour race
Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro Hybrid N°2 driven by French Benoit Treluyer (R) crosses the finish line to take the checkered flag in its 379th and last lap to win the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race on June 15, 2014, in Le Mans, western France - by Jean-Francois Monier
France's Benoit Treluyer, Swiss driver Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer of Germany came home three laps ahead of the second Audi led by Danish driver Tom Kristensen.
In third, five laps behind the winners was a Toyota driven by a trio headed by Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre.
It was the German team's 13th win in total, leaving them just three behind Porsche.
Treluyer, Fassler and Lotterer won the race for the third time, following 2011 and 2012, thus denying Kristensen, who already holds the record of nine race wins, the chance to reach an unprecedented double figures.
It was quite a turnaround in fortunes for the Audi teams after they suffered a series of misfortunes including turbocharger problems.
"We knew we would need a good car for the morning, to be ready to react if necessary," explained Treluyer.
"You need luck to win a race like this. And this year it was a bit the one who was the least unlucky."
Audi Sport director Wolfgang Ullrich said the team's experience saw them through.
"We weren't the favourite," said Ullrich.
"But it wasn't our first time. We know well that Le Mans is 24 hours and that we must find a solution to race without problem, without accident and spend the least time in the pits. It was our strategy."
Kristensen's luck ran out again after he had taken the lead early on Sunday morning when Stephane Sarrazin's Toyota was forced to retire after holding a commanding lead for more than 10 hours, with the two Audis trailing in its wake.
The Toyota spluttered to a halt at the side of the track, victim of an electrical fault in the early hours of Sunday morning.
"We lead the race for 14 hours, the car was fantastic," said Sarrazin. "Alex Wurz got off to an incredible start. I continued to build up a lead. We tried to push to take a lap but there was an electrical problem and the start of a fire.
"Le Mans is so long. There are such sophisticated cars and you attack for 24 hours. That's the difficulty of this race - you have to have reliability."
That handed first place to Treluyer's Audi with a three-lap advantage over its sister car.
But two hours later, the leading Audi was forced to make a long stop for a turbo change, surrendering six laps in the process and Kristensen's Audi, the car that had to be rebuilt after a massive accident during Wednesday’s practice session, became the race's fourth leader since the start.
The lead was short-lived, however, as the Audi also had to stop for more than a quarter-of-an-hour to change a turbo, a similar fate to that which had befallen Treluyer hours earlier.
Austrialian former Formula One ace Mark Webber then took the lead in his Porsche 919 hybrid, and was ahead with just three hours to go before being forced to abandon the race with transmission problems.
That left the road clear for the Audis to win the 82nd edition of the world's most famous endurance race watched by 263,000 spectators - the highest for 20 years.