While many will remember the 2011 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Allan McNish and Mike Rockenfeller’s horrific accidents, a bit of history was made with the lone-remaining Audi R18 TDI in the race, which claimed an unlikely victory thanks to its long-lasting and high-performing Michelin tires.
Following a tooth-and-nail battle with the trio of factory Peugeot 908s, the No. 2 Audi of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer came out on top, in the narrowest of margins, following a mammoth 55-lap quintuple stint on the same set of Michelin tires from Treluyer.
A feat unheard of prior to the race, the Frenchman gained the lead from the No. 9 Peugeot during his intense 3 hour and 20-minute run on Sunday morning.
While Stephane Sarrazin in the No. 8 Peugeot had achieved similar mileage with medium compound tires in the early hours of the race, Treluyer’s
466-mile run put the Audi out front when it mattered the most, having gained roughly 20 seconds during each pit stop due to not having to take fresh tires.
“The team woke me up for the run at the last possible moment,” Treluyer recalled. “There are easier ways of waking up than to find yourself being chased by three Peugeots at Le Mans!
“My Michelin tires gave me great grip from the word go, and I was able to lap at a sufficiently quick pace to defend our lead. I was still in a position where I could push hard at the very end of my fifth stint!”
The No. 2 Audi crossed the line just 13.854 seconds ahead of the second-placed No. 9 Peugeot, giving Treluyer, Lotterer and Fassler their first of what would be three overall victories with the legendary marque in the race.
With only one Audi having remained in the running following the pair of accidents from McNish and Rockenfeller, it was one of the most remarkable races for the German manufacturer, in the first year of its diesel-powered LMP1 coupe.
Their win also gave Michelin its 14th consecutive overall victory in the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic.
“A big bravo to Benoît for his quintuple stint, which we are certainly not likely to forget in a hurry!,” said then-Michelin Competition Director Nick Shorrock.
“Congratulations, too, to Audi on their 10th Le Mans win, as well as to Peugeot for providing us with such a thrilling contest all the way to the checkered flag.
“Michelin and its partners worked without let-up to develop the current-generation cars and consistent, competitive and safe tires.”