AUDI reclaimed the Le Mans 24 Hours crown on Sunday with Germany’s Timo Bernhard taking the chequered flag at the wheel of the first R15 car in a 1-2-3 finish at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The non-works Peugeot Oreca was fourth after the French manufacturer, who ended Audi’s five-year reign last year, saw their three works cars retire with mechanical failures.
Peugeot had looked race favourites after sweeping the front two rows of the grid in qualifying and then initially holding their positions at the start of the race.
The French team suffered a setback after three hours when their pacesetting car, which locally-born ex-Formula One driver Sebastien Bourdais had put on pole, withdrew due to suspension failure.
Audi, who had since 2000 won eight editions of the world’s oldest sportscar race which started in 1923, were meanwhile playing the long game and survived all the race incidents.
In front of more than 200,000 people, the shock of the race came 20 minutes after the 55 cars had left the grid when former Formula One world champion Nigel Mansell crashed at the entrance of the famous 6.2 km Mulsanne straight.
The winning Audi completed 397 laps over 24 hours for 3,367 miles, the fastest Le Mans ever.