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article imagePeugeot Edges Out Audi To Win Le Mans

By Christopher Szabo     Jun 14, 2009 in Technology
Peugeot have won the classic Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race at the Sarthe circuit in France, defeating their rivals, Audi, to make it ‘third time lucky.’ The Peugeot team scored a one-two finish after the Audis developed technical problems.
Marc Gene of Spain, Australia’s David Brabham and Austria’s Alexander Wurz drove their Number Nine, diesel-powered Peugeot 908 Hdi to victory, completing 382 laps of the almost 14 kilometre circuit, BBC Sport reports. This is one lap more than the sister car, number eight, driven by the all-French team of Sebastien Bourdais, Franck Montagny and Stephane Sarrazin and the first time Peugeot has won Le Mans in 16 years.
The car of defending champions Audi, driven by Briton Allan McNish, Italian Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen of Denmark was in a good position to win the race until the 21st hour when the car had to make two pit stops within minutes, first to change a steering wheel and then an engine problem. The Audi finished in third place, breaking the marque’s five-year long winning streak. McNish said:
We have enjoyed phenomenal success here at Le Mans and will come back again stronger.
The second Audi crashed out of the race when Lucas Luhr of Germany lost control of the car through the Porsche curve and crashed into the barriers.
To the delight of the French fans, the three Frenchmen in their Number Eight Peugeot started on pole position and led for most of the race’s first six hours until the vehicle developed a transmission problem. The pit stop allowed Number Nine to win the race, a personal second for Austria’s Wurz, who won in a Porsche in 1996.
The win was extra special for Brabham, son of three-time Formula One champion Sir Jack Brabham, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his father’s first F1 championship title. The younger Brabham said:
It's a magical feeling to finally win Le Mans, we had a perfect race, no problems whatsoever. I'm overjoyed to win the world's biggest race.
In another half-century anniversary, Aston Martin remembered their first Le Mans victory back in 1959. Alas, they were nine laps behind the winners.
The Legendary Porsche 917
The Legendary Porsche 917
Christopher Szabo
The race starts at four P.M. and finishes at the same time the following day, challenging the drivers in both daytime and night driving.
The Le Mans 24 Hour is the world’s oldest endurance race. It was first held in 1923 and runs numerous classes. The most powerful vehicles are called Sports Racing Prototypes, and are often based on actual road going cars, as was the case in the 1920s and ‘30s. Various marques have found glory on the Sarthe circuit, including Bugatti, Bentley and Alfa Romeo from 1923-1939, while Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes Benz and Jaguar dominated the race from 1949-1969. For the next four years, Ford led all the way, until 1971, when the legendary Porsche 917s, the fastest cars to ever drive at Le Mans, won.
The decades since have seen Porsche, Ferrari and French manufacturer Matra duke it out, until Audi began to dominate the race, now broken by the Peugeot win.
The Le Mans race has influenced car design, notably in aerodynamics and safety features, such as improved braking systems.
The legendary race has also been filmed numerous times, with the best known titled simply Le Mans, starring Steve McQueen as an aggressive racing driver with an unhappy private life.
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