Audi leads 24 Hours of Le Mans

Associated Press  |  Last updated June 15, 2012
Audi was in position to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the 11th time, with its cars in the top three spots Saturday night. Its main rival, Toyota, virtually fell out of contention. A crash forced Toyota No. 8 to retire while Toyota No. 7 dropped to 47th place, 30 laps off the pace. In the 10th hour, defending champion Andre Lotterer in his Audi No. 1 led Allan McNish's Audi No. 2 and Mike Rockenfeller's Audi No. 4 by one lap. Nick Heidfeld's Lola No. 12 was in fourth place, four laps behind Lotterer. At the end of the fifth hour, Ferrari No. 81 bumped into Toyota No. 8, which was running third and driven by Anthony Davidson. The Toyota became airborne before slamming into the tire barrier, forcing the safety car to come out. The race was held up for 71 minutes to clean up the track and remove wrecks of both cars at the Mulsanne corner. Davidson was carried to the circuit's medical center. The Toyota team said doctors confirmed that ''the pilot is suffering from shock and back pain.'' He was conscious but will be taken to a local hospital for precautionary checks. Before the safety car came on, Nicolas Lapierre in his Toyota No. 7 passed Benoit Treluyer's Audi No. 1 that had been leading from the start. But Audi No. 1 took advantage of pit stops to recapture the lead while the safety car was on track. Toyota nearly lost its only car left when the race resumed. Kazuki Nakajima's Toyota No. 7 attempted a risky pass and collided with the Nissan DeltaWing in the seventh hour. Nakajima damaged the rear of his car and his crew wasted a lot of time to repair it. Audi also had a scare in the fifth hour when Romain Dumas' Audi No. 3 went wide at the Forza chicane and crashed into a tire barrier. However, Dumas was able to drive back to the pits to repair his car. The German manufacturer made the best of the rolling start to take the top three spots when Allan McNish's Audi No. 2 overtook Stephane Sarrazin's Toyota No. 8 in the opening lap to take third. But Audi No. 3, in second place, suffered a puncture and Audi No. 2 had a rear suspension problem. Both went to the pits, allowing the Toyota cars to make up ground. Audi has won seven of the last eight races at Le Mans. Peugeot was able to disrupt the dominance of the German manufacturer in 2009. Toyota is returning to the world's most famous endurance race, 13 years after its last participation. A total of 56 cars started the 80th edition of the French endurance race, which will end Sunday afternoon.
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