It Has Been Ten Years Since Audi Last Won Le Mans

Image: Audi
Image: Audi

As a sports car fan in 2014 I genuinely believed that Audi could take down Porsche’s then-record of 16 Le Mans wins. That June, a decade ago, the diesel hybrid R18 E-tron Quattro took a thirteenth overall victory for Audi in 16 years. It was a four-rings party that was seemingly never going to end. Until it did. Today we’re celebrating the time the #2 Audi of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer, and Benoît Tréluyer took on the best from Toyota and Porsche and came out victorious, the last time an Audi would see the top step of the Le Mans podium.

While the Toyota and Porsche competitors were fresh builds for the 2014 regulations, the Audi was largely an update on existing architecture. While it wouldn’t prove as quick as the two newcomers, with the three Audis qualifying fifth, sixth, and seventh, the real success of the car was found in luck and engineering. As the Porsches fell off with a variety of endurance racing teething issues, and the race-leading Toyota was forced to retire with a melted wiring harness, the Audis moved into the lead. Both of the leading Audis suffered turbocharger failures, but the fix was a well-organized finely tuned process that took just twenty minutes.

The faster of the two Porsches moved into the lead of the race when the second Audi had its failure, but after an hour of running out front the Porsche 919 had a sway bar snap and it had to give up the lead and retire. That promoted the #2 Audi back to the lead with a three lap advantage over its #1 sister car, and that’s how the race finished. The nearest non-Audi was found five laps back, as one of the Toyotas found the podium for the first time.


The 2014 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was a true battle of attrition, with the fastest cars dropping like flies throughout the event. That Audi held on to the race and kept their cars on track was a testament to the ability of the Joest team running the effort and their experience repairing cars in the heat of battle. Audi always had a knack for building cars that could have major components replaced on the fly and in quick order. That preparation and strategy won them the race in 2014.

The Audi team found the podium at Le Mans two additional times in 2015 and 2016, but the German manufacturer pulled the plug on the program at the end of that season. Porsche won the next three Le Mans events on the fly, stretching its total number of victories to 19, though it is trying to extend that record with six cars entered in the race this year. Toyota, to its credit, won the next five races in a row, and has continually run its program since 2012. The sports car world misses the historically significant giant that was the Audi LMP1 program, and I genuinely hope we see the four rings back racing at La Sarthe sometime soon. For now, we can remember the good times.

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