Australian former Formula One ace Mark Webber was leading the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race with just three hours to go before transmission problems forced him out, leaving the road clear for an Audi 1-2 finish.
The lead changed a number of times between Toyota, Porsche and Audi, with Webber’s Porsche 919 hybrid tentatively close to the finish line when he was forced to abandon the race.
The win for Audi underlines their domination of Le Mans, with their fifth successive victory.
The prototype hybrid R18 e-tron quattro car with Frenchman Benot Treluyer, Swiss driver Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer of Germany at the wheel, came home ahead of the second Audi, driven by a team led by Danish driver Tom Kristensen.
Third was a Toyota driven by a trio headed by Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre.
It was the German team’s 13th win in total, leaving them just three behind Porsche.
Treluyer, Fassler and Lotterer won the race for the third time, following successes in 2011 and 2012, thus denying Kristensen, who already holds the record of nine race wins, the chance to reach an unprecedented double figures.
It was quite a turnaround in fortunes for the Audi teams after they suffered a series of misfortunes.
Kristensen’s luck ran out again after he had taken the lead early on Sunday morning when Stephane Sarrazin’s Toyota was forced to retire after holding a commanding lead for more than 10 hours, with the two Audis trailing in its wake.
The Toyota spluttered to a halt at the side of the track, victim of an electrical fault in the early hours of Sunday morning.
That handed first place to Treluyer’s Audi with a three-lap advantage over its sister car.
But two hours later, the leading Audi was forced to make a long stop for a turbo change, surrendering six laps in the process and Kristensen’s Audi, the car that had to be rebuilt after a massive accident during Wednesday’s practice session, became the race’s fourth leader since the start.
The lead was short-lived, however, as the Audi also had to stop for more than a quarter-of-an-hour to change a turbo, a similar fate to that which had befallen Treluyer hours earlier.
Webber then took the lead in his 919 hybrid, and was in the lead with three hours to go before the transmission problems flared up, leaving the way clear for the Audis.