The 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours will be remembered as the race that claimed the life of one of motor racing’s great drivers. Allan Simonsen driving the #95 Aston Martin, died after hitting the barriers at the fast Tetre Rouge corner on only his fourth lap.
It is the first fatality at the 24 since 1997 and although the race was yellow-flagged during the incident, it continued and was ultimately won by the Audi team and Tom Kristensen. The Dane increased his record number of wins to nine! He was close to tears when he dedicated this win to his fellow-countryman who died on Saturday.
LM P1 – Audi racks up victory no. 12!
The eagerly-awaited duel between Audi and Toyota took place in the top category (LM P1). Right from the start of the race the two manufacturers went at it hammer and tongs as the drivers representing the Japanese company took the fight to Audi. Despite the complications due to the numerous interruptions of the race, the R18 e-tron quattros got the upper hand and the German cars filled the first three places on Saturday afternoon.
But the first twist occurred just as night was falling when, in less than five minutes the no. 1 Audi (Lotterer-Fässler-Tréluyer), after being refuelled, was pushed into its garage with an alternator problem; and at almost the same moment the no.3 R18 e-tron quattro (Gene-Di Grassi-Jarvis) suffered a puncture.
Oliver Jarvis took a big risk coming back to his pit at a fast pace in his damaged car! After a wheel change he rejoined in fourth place in LM P1. The nos 8 (Davidson-Buemi-Sarrazin) and 7 (Wurz-Lapierre-Nakajima) Toyotas took over second and third places in that order behind the no.2 Audi in the lead.
Toyota made the best tyre choices to cope with the wet track conditions caused by the showers that fell during the night and reduced the gap to the Audi to two minutes, which varied depending on the intensity of the rain.
The two Toyotas showed stunning pace allied to surprising reliability as neither car ran into mechanical problems. There were more twists in the closing stages of the race. Nicolas Lapierre went off in the rain losing third place, while the no. 8 TS030 Hybrid did its best to catch the leader – but in vain!
Thus, Loïc Duval scored his first victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours, Allan McNish his third and Tom Kristensen his ninth. In tears the Dane dedicated his victory to his friend and fellow-countryman, Allan Simonsen. It was Audi’s twelfth victory in the Sarthe.
In the privateer LM P1 category, the win went to the Strakka Racing HPD (Honda Performance Development) in the hands of Leventis, Watts and Kane from the two Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyotas after several leadership changes.
LM P2 – Double for Morgan-Nissan
The nos 35 (Baguette-Gonzalez-Plowman) and 24 (Pla-Heinemeier Hanson-Brundle) Oak Racing Morgan-Nissans, demonstrated exemplary consistency and reliability in LM P2 racking up the laps in almost identical times from the start of the race. They took over first and second places in that order in the category in the eighth hour, where they stayed.
Behind the French team’s cars came the no. 26 Oreca 03-Nissan (Rusinov-Martin-Conway) entered by G-Drive Racing in third place and the no. 42 Greaves Motosport Zytek-Nissan (Mardenborough-Ordonez-Krumm) fourth. Only two laps covered the first four after 24 hours’ racing!
Unfortunately, the third works Morgan-Nissan no. 45 (Nicolet-Merlin-Mondolot), which the public loved because of its art car livery ran into too many problems to score a good result and finally retired.
The hopes of the French make, Alpine, making its Le Mans return with the no. 36 A450 (Panciatici-Ragues-Gommendy), were dashed. Its race turned into a nightmare, mainly because of two offs in thirty minutes! The pretty blue car finished ninth in its category.
LM GTE Pro – Porsche, a victorious return!
In the LM GTE Pro category the race quickly turned into a ding-dong battle between four works cars: the nos 99 (Bell-Makowiecki-Senna) and 97 (Dumbreck-Mücke-Turner) Aston Martins and the nos 92 (Lieb-Lietz-Dumas) and 91 (Bergmeister-Pilet-Bernhard) Porsches. Around 10 h 00 on Sunday morning the no. 99 Aston Martin leading the category went off and had to retire. The British team was visibly deeply shaken by this incident, as they were all dreaming of dedicating a victory to Allan Simonsen.
The AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italias, which were among the favourites, were never in a position to pose a threat to the leaders: it was the same story for the works Corvettes, and the Vipers that showed great promise for a car that made its debut a year ago.
LM GTE Am – Porsche holds off Ferrari
The IMSA Performance Matmut team, which had not met with much success in the Le Mans 24 Hours in the past several years, was back in the winners’ circle with the no.
76 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (Narac-Bourret-Vernay), scoring its first victory since 2007! Into second and third came the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italias, no. 55 (Perazzini-Case-O’Young) and 61 (Gerber-Griffin-Cioci) saving the Prancing Horse’s honour in the LM GTE category.
Actor Patrick Dempsey, the centre of attention since the start of the Le Mans 24-Hours week, saw the flag in 30th place overall and fourth in the GTE Am category in the no. 77 Porsche he shared with Joe Foster and Patrick Long out of the 11 classified finishers.
After the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship Duval, Kristensen, McNish now lead the drivers’ classification. Audi has consolidated its place at the head of the manufacturers’ title chase. The Porsche and Morgan-Nissan drivers and the respective makes now lead their championships as double points were awarded for this event.
The next round will take place in Sao Paulo on 1st September 2013. By Melissa Warren