It's 2005 all over again as Audi battles Pescarolo at Sebring

04th December 2016
Ben Miles

Much of the Le Mans 24 Hours during the 2000s will be remembered for the astonishing dominance of Audi. Indeed it was a decade during which it was only beaten twice – by Bentley when Audi withdrew its factory team in 2003 and Peugeot in 2009. But for one year at least they didn't have it all their own way thanks to a plucky privateer – that year was 2005.


After Audi won its third straight title in 2002 the factory team, nominally at least, withdrew from competition, focussing on the development of its next world-dominating car, the R10. During their three-year absence their place was taken by a group of (albeit factory helped) private teams, Audi Sport UK, Champion ADT Racing and Team Goh.

For 2003 Volkswagen had chosen to focus its efforts on Bentley, a brand it had only recently acquired, and after taking the title in 2003 that effort was withdrawn, leaving no true factory efforts to tackle the world's greatest motor race for the next couple of years.


The 2004 race restored the previous order, the three Audi teams locked out the podium and the Japanese Team Goh secured Tom Kristensen his fifth straight Le Mans victory. But just a handful of laps behind the now ageing R8s was the Pescarolo C60 of Soheil Ayari, Érik Comas and Benoît Tréluyer. The team run by French legend Henri Pescarolo had purchashed the Courage chassis and developed them over the previous few years and now seemed ready to challenge for their first victory.

For 2005 they returned with an upgraded version of the C60, still powered by the same, sonorous 5.0-litre Judd V10, but now gunning for the R8s, which had had no serious development for three seasons. This year the two-pronged Pescarolo attack only had three Audis to face, two run by the Champion ADT team that had secured a podium finish the year before, and another run by fellow French privateers Oreca. Henri's team had nothing to lose – so of course they went for it.

Everything went according to the French team's plan in qualifying, the two Courages locked out the front row of the grid, a full three seconds clear of the tiring Audis. It seemed that the only way the German marque could take its fifth win would to be through attrition – and so it proved.

The Pescarolos were plagued by incident and reliability issues throughout the 24 hours. After streaking away at the start one car hit a Panoz and suffered tyre damage, and the other found itself back in the garage with a gearbox failure. That wasn't the end for Henri's boys, the latter car returned to the track and set a new lap record in its desperate hunt for the leading Audi, screaming round La Sarthe a full five seconds a lap faster and eventually regaining second and settling in to what seemed to be a final chase for victory. But then, just as it looked like they could be successful, the C60 was back in the garage. Overheating issues meant it could no longer push fast enough and the Audi's lead stretched to two laps. That was that.


But this weekend at Sebring it was time for revenge. Sure the Pescarolo car on show may not have been that famous 2005 Courage, but rather a 2007 Pescarolo 01, but it was another car that clinched a plucky podium behind an Audi. And is again powered by a beutiful Judd V10.

At the Sebring Classic 12 Hour the Pescarolo was in the hands of Le Mans LMP2 winner Richard Bradley, pitted against the same Le Mans winning Champion ADT Audi that handed Henri the 2005 defeat, and this weekend driven by tLe Mans winner Andy Wallace. There was even another R8 waiting to take them on, this one built from spare parts from the factory programme.

This time it was the turn of the stunning white Audi to suffer at the hands of the gods of mechanical misfortune. The R8 sufferring an engine failure in the first part of this split race. Could the Pescarolo finally take that long-awaited victory? You'll have to visit our friends at Historic Sportscar Racing to find out...

Photography by Ben Miles.

  • Sebring Classic 12 Hour

  • Sebring Classic 12 Hour 2016

  • Audi

  • R8

  • Pescarolo

  • C60

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