Dumas leads Audi sweep of Le Mans 24 Hour Race
Le Mans: Audi completed a podium sweep at the Le Mans 24 Hour Race with their R15 TDI team made up of France`s Romain Dumas and Germany`s Timo Bernhard and Mike Rockenfeller crossing the line first in the most famous endurance race in the world.
The R15 No.9 team finished the 78th edition of the race one lap ahead of the Audi R15 TDI No.8 of France`s Benoit Treluyer, Swiss Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer of Germany.
It is the first victory at Le Mans for the three drivers, two of whom, Dumas and Bernhard, are still under contract with Porsche, who loaned them to Audi for this 2010 edition.
"It is absolutely fabulous," said Dumas whose car started the race in fifth position on the grid.
"Audi has worked well, nobody was expecting us to win. For me as a Frenchman, this victory is the most important there is. I hope that we will be back next year."
The Audi R15 TDI No.7 of Dane Tom Kristensen, Briton Allan McNish and Italy`s Rinaldo Capello recovered from a mechanical problem early in the race to finish third, three laps behind the winner.
The winners completed 397 laps and in covering 5,410km beat the record for the race distance covered by a winner of Le Mans. The previous record, set by a Porsche 917 had stood since 1971.
It is the fourth clean-sweep by Audi following similar triumphs in 2000, 2002 and 2004 but it is the first time the German team has done it with diesel powered cars. It is their ninth win in 11 years.
"I must first of all say a big thank you to all of our team," said Wolfgang Ullrich, the director of Audi Sport.
"Everyone worked superbly and we have succeeded. When one works on something as intensely as this and come out of it with a result, it is excellent."
It was a disappointing race for Peugeot, however. The French team, which won the race last year, suffered a series of machanical problems which saw all four of their cars drop out.
Their number one car driven by Marc Gene, Alexander Wurz and Anthony Davidson suffered an alternator problem during the night which took four laps to put right and dropped them to seventh.
They battled back to second place before Wurz was forced to retire the car two hours from the finish after another mechanical problem.
The Peugeot 908 HDi-FAP of Sebastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud and Pedro Lamy, which had started in pole position, was an early withdrawal, retiring while running second in the third hour of the race with a damaged suspension.
Ex-formula one world champion Nigel Mansell, 56, who was competing with his sons Greg and Leo, retired after crashing his Ginetta-Zytek into a railing just 20 minutes into the race.