Watch Joest's most dramatic Le Mans win

Le Mans News

On legendary team boss Reinhold Joest’s birthday relive his triumph in the 2011 Le Mans nail biter

The no2 Audi takes the applause after a dramatic 2011 Le Mans victory

Legendary team owner Reinhold Joest celebrates his 82nd birthday today. The Joest name is synonymous with sports car success and the team claimed no fewer than 15 Le Mans 24 Hours wins, the first coming in 1984 and the most recent triumph in 2014.

Yet surely win number 12, in 2011, topped them all for drama and excitement. As the Joest Audi beat home team Peugeot by a mere 13.8 seconds after 24 hours of racing. What’s more the winning machine was the sole remaining Audi for two-thirds of the distance, taking on a full three-car Peugeot complement in a thrilling topsy-turvy battle.

And you can watch highlights of the race’s memorable action in the Michelin video below.

“The 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours was one of the most exciting races at La Sarthe for many years,” said Ed Foster for Motor Sport at the time. “This was the closest finish since the Ford-Porsche duel of 1969, but how closely matched were Audi and Peugeot?

More: 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours

“The advantage swayed between one and the other because while the Audis were faster over a lap, the Peugeots could go one lap longer between fuel stops.”

Tyres and the weather provided two more variables, with Peugeot closing the gap after switching to soft tyres at nightfall; Audi stretching away again when the track heated up.

And then it rained with three hours to go and the Peugeot again tore chunks from Audi’s lead. On the flipside, the Audi was kinder to its tyres throughout and could do more stints on a single set.

“It was a completely crazy race,” said Audi Sport Team Joest technical director Ralf Jüttner. “To be duelling with several cars over 24 hours within gaps of seconds… I don’t think the world has ever seen anything like it before.”

Making it even tougher for Audi, as intimated it had a solo effort for most of the distance. First, Allan McNish’s R18 crashed out spectacularly in the first hour after being clipped by Anthony Beltoise’s Ferrari 458 GT.

That one was considered by most a racing incident, “but,” as Foster continued in reference to the second Audi to crash out, “Mike Rockenfeller’s accident in the no1 Audi at 10.40pm was far from blameless.

“At the Mulsanne kink ‘Rocky’ came up behind the AF Corse Ferrari of Robert Kauffman and went to pass it on the right. As he drew alongside at over 200mph Kauffman inexplicably drifted into the path of the Audi and clipped the back of it.

Reinhold Joest at the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hour race

“The R18 speared left and hit the barrier almost at full tilt. By the time it came to a halt only the tub of the car remained, but after spending a night in hospital as a precaution, Rockenfeller was released unharmed. Remarkable. Kauffman was consequently withdrawn from the race by the ACO.”

That left the no2 Audi – piloted by Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer – to fight Peugoet alone, and it held off the Sébastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud and Pedro Lamy no9 car by a scant margin. Only three Le Mans have had closer finishes.

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