Tue, Jun 19, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Audi beats back Peugeot challenge to win Le Mans

AP , LE MANS, FRANCE

German driver Marco Werner waves to the crowd from his Audi while passing the checkered flag to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in Le Mans, France, on Sunday. Werner won with Audi co-drivers Frank Biela and Emanuel Pirro.

PHOTO: EPA

Audi overcame the challenge of two Peugeot cars and wet racing conditions on Sunday to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the fourth straight year.

Frank Biela and Marco Werner of Germany and Emanuele Pirro of Italy drove diesel-powered Audi No. 1 to victory, taking the lead in the morning after Dindo Capello's Audi No. 2 crashed out.

"We had nine stressful hours with the Peugeot right behind us," Pirro said. "But the more you suffer, the greater the pleasure."

Audi No. 1 completed 369 laps in 24 hours, 10 laps ahead of Peugeot No. 8, which was driven by Sebastien Bourdais, Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy. It was the fifth Le Mans victory for Pirro and Biela and the third for Werner, the defending champion.

On the last lap, Bourdais slowed to wait for Audi No. 1 to cross the finish line together.

"Finishing second is like a victory for Peugeot," said Bourdais, whose car dropped to eighth on Saturday evening after twice losing time due to mechanical problems before rallying through the night.

Peugeot was racing in the French classic for the first time after a 14-year absence.

Emmanuel Collard's Pescarolo Judd No. 16 finished third, 12 laps behind Werner, but was the first gasoline-powered car.

Peugeot No. 7 -- driven by Marc Gene, Nicolas Minassian and Jacques Villeneuve -- was second after Capello's accident, but stopped after its engine failed because of a loss of oil pressure in the 22nd hour.

After 262 laps and more than 16 hours of racing, Capello had a three-lap lead over Biela, but the Italian driver's Audi No. 2 crashed into a tire barrier after losing its left rear wheel and had to stop.

"It's never easy to sustain an accident at high speed like the one experienced by Dindo," Pirro said. "But fortunately for him he was driving a very solid Audi."

Tom Kristensen and Capello had led since the first lap of the famous endurance race.

Capello's co-pilot, Allan McNish, posted the fastest lap of 3 minutes, 27.176 seconds on the 13.6km Le Mans circuit.

Aston Martin No. 009 -- driven by David Brabham, Rickard Rydell, and Darren Turner -- completed 342 laps to finish fifth overall, but No. 1 in the GT1 class.

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