The 24 Hours of Le Mans has concluded today at the Circuit de la Sarthe, with Audi roaring away with 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th places.
There were 22 drivers there today who have previously raced in Formula 1. Some finished well up the field with consistent drives, while others were involved in terrifying crashes. Here is the report of the F1 drivers from today’s race:
Brundle & Brundle impress in LMP2
Sky F1 commentator and former F1 driver Martin Brundle, along with his son Alex, competed in the LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2) category.
Clocking in an impressive 340 laps overnight, the father-son pairing finished 5th in class, and 15th overall. However, during the race, they were forced to switch to right-foot braking – a first for Alex – after problems began to develop on the car.
Alternator and throttle issues prevented them from battling for a podium finish, but the elder of the two stated he was pleased with his racing return.
Davidson lucky after horrific crash
Further up the field, 2007 Super Aguri driver Anthony Davidson was competing for the overall victory with the resurgent Toyota team. He took control of the #8 car, about 80 laps into the race.
However, a horrific smash with a Ferrari 458 (GTE Pro category) sent Davidson flying into the barriers, and the Toyota out of the race. After being sent to hospital to treat him for shock and back pain, it was confirmed that Davidson had suffered two broken vertebrae in the crash.
However, from watching the replay, you could argue that he is lucky to be alive:
Teammate Sebastien Buemi, a former Toro Rosso driver, drove a fantastic stint to bring the #8 Toyota within 3 seconds of the lead beforehand. Stephane Sarrazin – a once-off driver for Minardi, also drove well in his opening stints.
McNish and Gene throw away vital positions for Audi
2002 Toyota F1 driver Allan McNish has moved on to the Audi Le Mans team, this year racing the #2 R-18 e-tron quattro, a hybrid 4-wheel drive car. He inherited the lead from the #1 car, and was in contention for the race win.
However, when lapping a backmarker, McNish spun out and hit the barriers, losing vital time with repair work:
Amazingly, just minutes beforehand, fellow Audi driver Marc Gene (former Minardi and BMW Williams driver) had clashed with another barrier, this time on one of the Mulsanne chicanes. Earlier in the race, the same car was crashed in the exact same spot by Romain Dumas.
Both cars were repaired, at the same time, by the Audi crew, and sent out within 10 minutes – an incredible performance by the team.
Wurz and Nakajima suffer bad luck at Toyota
Besides Davidson’s crash, the sister Toyota car was in the wars as well.
The #7 car was running second after a safety car restart, with former Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima at the wheel. However, he clashed with the radical Nissan Delta Wing, forcing both cars to undergo extensive repairs.
The Delta Wing was out, while the #7 Toyota never recovered. Benneton and Williams racer Alexander Wurz brought the car out of the pits, but it repeatedly stuttered to a halt.
It was a disappointing end to a promising campaign for the Toyotas, but they’ll be back even stronger next year.
Bruni and Fisichella win GTE Pro category
2004 Minardi driver Gianmaria Bruni and Jordan, Renault and Ferrari driver Giancarlo Fisichella experienced success at this year’s Le Mans.
They won the GTE Pro category in the #51 Ferrari 458. While Fisichella was the one who crashed the car on Friday, forcing the car to start at the back of the grid, he did well to move 3 laps clear of his nearest competitor.
Brabham and Chandhok impress in JRM HPD
David Brabham – son of 3 times world champion Jack Brabham – and Karun Chandhok (2010 HRT racer) finished 6th overall in the LMP1 category.
They were racing for the JRM team. Despite some stalling while Chandhok attempted to leave the pits, the #22 car was brilliantly reliable, and briefly ran ahead of some of the Audi R18s.
Heidfeld splits the Audis with Lola
Nick Heidfeld, who has had a stunted career in F1 to say the least, was driving for the Lola team, and managed to finish ahead of one of the Audi cars.
He was driving with Nicolas Prost (son of Alain Prost) and Neel Jani (Lotus test driver), both of which are aiming for drives in F1 in the future.
With excellent reliability, the trio worked their way up to 4th place overall, and ruined a 1-2-3-4 finish for the Audi team. In fact, had any major problem befallen the top 3 cars, Heidfeld and co. would have finished on the podium!