Audi dominates at Le Mans

JUNE 16, 2002

Audi dominates at Le Mans

AUDI dominated the Le Mans 24 Hours for the third consecutive year with the Audi Sport Team Joest entry of Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Tom Kristensen winning their third consecutive victory in the race. It is the first time in history that record three drivers have shared victory in three consecutive years. Three consecutive wins are not unusual as Woolf Barnato (1928-30), Olivier Gendebien (1960-62), Henri Pescarolo (1972-74) and Jacky Ickx (1975-77) all achieved that result.

It is the third consecutive year in which Audi has finished 1-2 in the race although a perfect 1-2-3 record was spoiled last year when a Bentley finished third behind the two Audis.

Second this year were Johnny Herbert, Rinaldo Capello and Christian Pescatori while third place went to Michael Krumm/Philip Peter/Marco Werner.

The nearest challenger was the Bentley (a car based on the Audi design) driven by Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger and Eric Van de Poele which finished laps behind.

The race ran without any major incident, despite fears of cars flipping because of an aerodynamic problem discovered by Audi after the crash which killed Michele Alboreto a year ago. There was one serious incident during the night when an MG caught fire on the Mulsanne Straight. Driver Mel Hawkins escaped without injury.

The only big crash of the race was on Saturday evening when Werner Lupberger crashed the Ascari-Judd at high speed, escaping without injury.

Audi's recent domination is very impressive but in the overall scheme of things it is not unusual for a manufacturer to win multiple victories beginning with Bentley which scored four wins in 1927-30. Alfa Romeo matched that (1931-34) but after that it was not until Jaguar won three in a row (1955-57) that such domination was achieved again. Between 1960 and 1965 Ferrari won six in a row with Ford then taking over with four consecutive wins between 1966-69. In the 1970s Matra won three consecutive victories (1972-74) while in the 1980s Porsche was utterly dominated with a record seven wins in a row (1981-1987).

There was last minute drama in the LMP 675 class when the WR-Peugeot of Stephane Daoudi, Jean-Rene de Fournoux and Jean-Bernard Bouvet losing out on the last lap because of a suspension problem. This gave victory in the class to the Reynard of Jean-Denis Deletraz, Walter Lechner and Christophe Pillon.

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