Le Mans, 16 June, 2002
With a superb 1-2-3 in front of 220,000 spectators, AUDI AG has secured a
special place in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hour race. Audi is only the fifth
manufacturer to win the toughest car race in the world with the same team
three times in a row – and the first who achieved this proper hat-trick in the
past nearly 20 years. The Audi works drivers Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen
and Emanuele Pirro also wrote motorsport history: They are the first-ever
driver squad that won Le Mans three times in a row.
The latest Audi triumph in the endurance classic which has been held since
1923 was another demonstration of “Vorsprung durch Technik” and an
impressive combination of speed and reliability. Over the entire 3,180 mile
(5,120 kms) distance, the three Infineon Audi R8 sportscars, fitted with 610
hp strong FSI engines, were the fastest cars in the field. From the start, Audi
led the race, never giving the lead away during the entire 24 hours. From
hour six onwards, all three “works” Audis were at the head of the field. And
Tom Kristensen shattered the lap record by almost four seconds. In total,
the winning car covered 375 laps – seven more compared to the record
drive in 2000.
Despite the stunning 1-2-3, the 70th running of the Le Mans 24 Hour race
was anything but easy for the Audi squad. Warm and humid summer
weather made it an enormous challenge for man and machine. The race
also turned into a “tyre battle” with unusually many punctures which cost
time and scarred the bodywork on the Infineon Audi R8 sportscars. That the
punctures caused no further serious consequences was also prevented by
a system developed by Audi and tyre partner Michelin, which warns the
driver of a loss of tyre pressure.
The punctures also had an influence on the final outcome of the three
Infineon Audi R8 sportscars. But as in the previous two years, Frank Biela,
Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro had the necessary slice of luck on
their side again. They took the lead on Saturday evening, did not make a
single mistake and so secured their historical third win at Le Mans. Rinaldo
Capello, Johnny Herbert and Christian Pescatori achieved second position
just in front of the newcomers Michael Krumm, Philipp Peter and Marco
Werner who made it to the podium in their very first race with the R8.
With the triple victory, Audi Sport Team Joest continues its amazing winning
streak in the Le Mans 24 Hour race: Since the debut in 1999, the team
always brought home every car. For the third time in a row, the cars of the
Audi Sport Team Joest left all other competitors behind. In 2000 and 2002,
Audi celebrated triple victories. During the “rain battle” in last year’s season,
both entered R8 sportscars conquered the first two race positions.
The customer team Audi Sport Japan Team Goh scored a creditable
achievement with seventh position despite an accident in qualifying and a
radiator change during the race.
The roadcar customer already benefits from the FSI Power in the rear of the
successful Infineon Audi R8 sportscars: The Le Mans proved direct petrol
injection is also available for production cars. “The technology transfer
between the racetrack and production cars is very intensive at Audi. The FSI
technology is a very good example for that”, says Dr Martin Winterkorn,
Chairman of the Board at AUDI AG.