This year’s Le Mans 24 Hours has been won by Audi, and 2011 will be remembered for a long time as one of the classics. Audi’s car No.2 trio of Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler prevailed at the end, but it was a very tight affair – second place went to Peugeot’s Bourdais, Lamy and Pagenaud, whose No.9 car was just 13.854 seconds behind.

There was immense pressure on Lotterer, who drove the final stint being hounded by the Peugeots, and in on/off rain. He also had to pit for a puncture with around 40 minutes remaining, so it’s a job well done.

The French cars filled the rest of the top five positions, meaning all three factory Peugeots made it to the end. Things couldn’t be more different for chief rival Audi, which saw two of their three cars involved in major crashes in the first third of the race. Thankfully, Allan McNish and Mike Rockenfeller sustained no injuries in those incidents.

The first accident saw McNish’s car No.3, who had just taken the lead shortly before the end of the first hour, collide with a Ferrari at La Chappelle. The GTE Pro class car hit the Audi’s left rear wheel, causing the R18 TDI to spin off and hit the barrier hard before rolling over and causing an explosion of car bits. This brought the safety car out.

Eight hours into the race, another Audi crashed out. This time, Rockenfeller’s car No.1, which was running second at 11 pm, was powering down the Mulsanne when he collided with (another) slow Ferrari at the kink, propelling his car into the barriers. This was a super high speed crash, and it’s a testament of the safety built into today’s race cars that “Rocky” climbed out of the car himself.

“If you pursue new paths this always involves a risk. But this risk has absolutely paid off. The Audi R18 TDI was in a class of its own at Le Mans 2011. Particularly due to the two extremely serious accidents this has been the most difficult Le Mans race for us in an emotional sense so far. That our team managed to keep the strong competition at bay for 16 hours with just one car is almost unbelievable,” said Audi Head of Motorsport, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich.

“Everyone at Audi can be proud of this triumph. However, the news that Allan and Mike came out of these extremely heavy accidents so well is at least as important as that of the tenth Audi victory,” he added.