of the Peugeot 908 HDis after a crucial
double strategy call in the final hour.
Lotterer had a lead of around 25sec
over Peugeot’s Simon Pagenaud when the
telemetry in the Audi Sport Team Joest pit
picked up that the R18 had sustained a
left-rear puncture. Had the alarm been
heeded at that exact moment and Lotterer
brought into the pits right away, Audi
would almost certainly have lost the race.
Pitting at the end of the lap on which
the puncture had been detected would
have meant that the Audi would have
required another stop for a splash of fuel
before the end of the race. The brains in
the pits took a decision that no computer
could take, deciding to leave Lotterer out
on the slowly-deflating Michelin tire.
“He actually went twice past the pits
on the punctured tire, because it came a
couple of laps too early for us,” recounts
Joest team boss Ralf Juttner. “If we’d
brought him straight in, we would have to
have come back in to do a splash-and-dash.
“We kept Andre informed about what
was going on and we carefully watched
the pressures – and I can promise you it
was not just one guy watching... Luckily
the pressure in the tire stabilized.”
The decision on when to bring in
Lotterer was complicated by an edict
from race control a few hours earlier.
Because the battle for the lead was so
tight, it had been decided that the field
would undertake a cool down lap of the
long, 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe after
the finish. Normally, the cars take the
checkered flag and turn hard right at the
end of the pit lane and into parc ferme.
“The engine guys were saying that our
stop would be too early because we
needed the fuel to complete this extra
lap,” continues Juttner. “I pointed out that
the rules didn’t say we had to complete
the lap. I told them that I didn’t care if the
car stopped out on track on the slowing-
down lap, even if it didn’t look very pretty.”
There was another decision to make
before Lotterer arrived on pitlane: should
he be given a full set of new Michelins? Or
maybe just the rears, or just a new left
rear? The Audi had been going up to five
stints between changes, and Lotterer had
completed only three and a half stints since
his last new set. There were a number of
possible scenarios from which to choose.
“We had all the drivers who weren’t
broke. Porsche’s solution involved quick
thinking, some brute force, a hacksaw
and a handful of tie-wraps.
The loose rod was removed and the
throttle jammed fully open and secured
with tie-wraps. It didn’t make for a very
drivable racecar, even more so when the
problem reoccurred and the second rod
broke. But this time, the Porsche crew
knew what to do and carried out the
“We carefully watched the
[tire] pressures – and I can
promise you it was not just
one guy watching...”
(LEFT) Mark Webber
celebrates the 2015
FIA WEC LMP1 drivers’
title with teammates
Brendon Hartley and
Timo Bernhard. Earlier,
a few tie-wraps had
saved their season.
Factory LMP1s are
the most high-tech
racecars on the
planet, but sometimes
it’s a gut-instinct
decision that makes
all the difference.
same fix in double-quick time.
Webber managed to get the stuttering
car to the finish in fifth. Porsche had
spent hundreds of millions of dollars since
its return to the top flight of sports car
racing in the summer of 2011, and its
championship was secured – quite literally –
by a couple of nickel ’n’ dime tie-wraps.
No super computer, no matter how
powerful, can make the kind of decision
that played a part in Audi’s victory at the
2011 24 Hours of Le Mans. The R18 TDI
driven by Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer
and Marcel Fassler edged the win by just
13.8sec in an intense fight with the best
Juttner has been
with Joest Racing
programs, he also
worked with the
privateer Goh Audi
squad and Bentley
in 2003 and ’04,
earning a victory
on both occasions.
In total, he’s been
directly involved in
15 Le Mans wins.