Le Mans, Part 5 (the long day is over!)

The checkered flag has fallen at Le Mans, and the Audi R10 TDI is the victor for the third straight year, this time thanks to the driving skills of Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen, and Allan McNish.

The Number 2 Audi was able to hold off the faster competition from Peugeot largely because of the Audi’s superior fuel mileage; over the course of the exciting twenty-four-hour event, Peugeot’s top car made three more pit stops than did the winning Audi (which for the first time burned a special mixture of biodiesel fuel made through a process called Biomass-to-Liquids).

With just over an hour left in the race, it looked as though the Number 7 Peugeot might run down the leading Audi, after the French entry shaved the Audi’s lead to less than two minutes. However, rain returned to Sarthe shortly thereafter, and Peugeot was no longer able to turn quick enough lap times to make up the difference. The final margin of victory was about four-and-a-half minutes

In a remarkable testament to the durability and strength of the diesel-powered prototypes from both Audi and Peugeot, all six of the companies’ entries swept the top-six positions, with Audi notching first, fourth, and sixth.

This race marked my first time at Le Mans, but it’s plainly obvious that the 24 Hours of Le Mans should be at or near the top of every race fan’s gotta-see-it-before-I-die list. The drama of big-time endurance racing at a classic European track is a great way to feed your inner Andretti.

Also, don’t forget to watch for a high-res wallpaper photo gallery from Le Mans very soon.

More photos of the action today:

A bit of sleep makes Audi guests better-prepared for the afternoon’s champagne-soaked victory celebration.

Cars sprayed rooster tails of water high in the air when the rain returned to Le Mans.

After taking the checkers, Audi driver Tom Kristensen cruises past pit road and an Audi hospitality area. The victory marked the Danish driver’s eighth victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It also marked Audi’s ninth consecutive overall win (if you count the Bentley that won in 2003).

Just finishing the grueling daylong race at Le Mans is reason to celebrate. Even though the top Corvette finished second in the GT class behind Aston Martin, enthused supporters crowded pit road to wave Old Glory at the end of the race.

The mob assembles near the winners’ circle, post-race. And they can’t wait for next year’s 24 Heures du Mans.

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