Audi boss wants nod to carry on

Audi boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich hopes his all-conquering team will be allowed to try and maintain their domination of the Le Mans 24-Hour Race.

Audi boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich hopes his all-conquering team will be allowed to try and maintain their domination of the Le Mans 24-Hour Race.

But the signals following the German manufacturer’s third successive victory, and second clean sweep of the podium positions in three years, were that it is likely to quit while well ahead.

Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro became the first crew to notch up a hat-trick of consecutive victories as they came home a lap ahead of the car driven by England’s Johnny Herbert this weekend.

Since 2000, Audi have an unblemished record in the gruelling endurance classic, their works team having provided eight entries during that time and not one of them has failed to finish in the top three.

They are clearly as dominant in their chosen field as Tiger Woods in his and there is nothing left to prove, which is why many experts are suggesting Audi’s motor sport future lies away from sportscars.

The theory is that if they pull out now, they would leave the way clear for Bentley, who are also part of the Volkswagen group, to take over having been Audi’s closest challengers at Le Mans for the last two years.

If Ullrich had his way, however, the Audi era at Le Mans would continue in a bid to set records that may never be broken.

‘‘There are many working groups within the Volkswagen group who work on motor sport strategy and each then makes a proposal depending on what is considered right for its marketing purposes,’’ explained Ullrich.

‘‘Everything is then brought together and hopefully a decision is reached by the end of the year.

‘‘I don’t know yet what will happen. But my personal view is that there are six Audi R8 sportscars in existence and I don’t think it would be good if we put them in a garage and lock it.’’

Former Grand Prix star Herbert never really looked like recording a second Le Mans triumph 11 years after his first once his car had sustained a puncture at the three-and-a-half hour mark on Saturday.

It was being driven at the time by his Italian colleague Christian Pescatori, who had to nurse the Audi back to the pits and lost a total of five minutes, the equivalent of almost one and a half laps.

In total, Herbert’s car suffered four flat tyres and the 37-year-old pinpointed that as the main reason for missing out on glory.

"The time we lost due to all the punctures cost our car any chance we had of victory,’’ admitted the Essex man.

‘‘It's a crying shame - the car itself ran faultlessly, fast and reliable throughout the 24 hours.

‘‘But nobody can be blamed for a tyre being punctured - you’re literally in the lap of the Gods with something like that and we were the unlucky ones.

‘‘It was a fantastic race with a lot of fighting and a brilliant victory for Audi. All the guys did a great job.’’

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