The worlds most celebrated, unforgiving endurance race held at the Circuit de la Sarthe in France is the highlight of the race year for many. 250,000 spectators and millions of TV viewers will all remember this race for the dramatic crashes of the two Audis, the overall win of the last remaining Audi, and the Corvette sweeping the GT class.
The Aston Martin team has a bad weekend and lost both of their cars within three laps of the start, the cars simply broke down. Much less was expected of the Group Lotus entries although one finished the race. The other car did a lot more laps than the Aston Martins.
Allan McNish in the #3 Audi R18 TDI had taken the lead shortly before the end of the first hour but he collided with a Ferrari F430 GT car in the "La Chappelle" section, the R18's one-piece carbon fiber monocoque withstood the crash. The British driver was lucky to avoid serious harm. His team mate Mike Rockenfeller in the sister car was also very fortunate to sustain no injuries when he had an even bigger crash shortly before 11pm, while running in second, he also collided with a GT car while doing about 180mph, the carbon monocoque withstood the crash.
“The safety standards at Audi are simply incredible and saved my life," said Mike Rockenfeller. "I've never had such an accident in my career and hope I'll never have such an experience again.”
Allan McNish commented after his crash: “I want to thank the Audi designers for having developed a car that you can climb out of unharmed after such severe accidents."
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport, said: “2011 was no doubt the most difficult Le Mans race we’ve ever contested, but in the end with the sweetest result we’ve ever had as well. From such a difficult situation we managed to recover again on our own power and in the end to defeat – albeit with a narrow margin – our really strong competitors from Peugeot. After eight hours we’d lost two of our three cars and knew that it would be extremely difficult with just one car. The entire squad gave everything to do the best for this car. Of course the drivers had to drive it. And they did a really fantastic job - although it was the squad with the least experience at Le Mans. Of course it’s extremely important that Allan McNish and Mike Rockenfeller came out of both accidents, which were really severe, without any injuries.”
Strategy helped the Audi R18 #2 to come home ahead of the Peugeot 908 #9. The three Audi drivers that won the race reflected upon the race:
Benoit Treluyer: “Marcel (Fässler) and I started together and we find ourselves here today. They're a bunch of friends who earned an incredible title. Today it is a team victory. There was a huge development work on the part of all drivers, and we must thank the whole team.”
Andre Lotterer: “I gave everything. It was a tragic race for us. I was really worried about Mike, I asked the team to give me news of him. In the end, there was only one thing to do was attack. It's a great team, we take pleasure in being together. Nobody can imagine how many people work behind the scenes to get there.”
Marcel Fässler: "The whole race was really unbelievable. We were always under pressure. It is a day I will never forget in my life.”
The Peugeot’s came home second, third and fourth, their fifth car having had a shunt that incapacitated it out on the circuit. In LMP2, the English team of Greaves Motorsport finished first.