Le Mans: Allan McNish in second as Toyota woe helps Audis

AUDI’S chances of becoming the first manufacturer to win the Le Mans 24-Hours with a diesel-hybrid car rose dramatically after two incidents involving the rival Toyotas.

Five hours into the 80th running of the famous endurance race, the Toyota of Anthony Davidson was sent skywards following contact with a slower Ferrari.

As the Englishman, lying third at the time, closed in on second place, he passed the slower Ferrari of Pierguiseppe Perazzini on the right-hand side.

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The Italian though, apparently unaware of the Toyota – which was travelling around 50mph quicker – moved to the right. The front right of the Ferrari glanced the left rear of the passing Toyota, similar to the incident which caused Scot Allan McNish’s horror crash last year.

As the Toyota was spun in front of the Ferrari at over 100mph, fast-flowing air turned Davidson’s car into an aeroplane wing. In a split second it became airborne. Spinning end-over-end, with first the nose of Davidson’s Toyota pointing to the track, then towards the sky, the car miraculously landed back on all four wheels.

But the momentum carried the Toyota, nose first, into the tyre wall at speed. Such was the ferocity of the collision that the armco behind the tyres was badly damaged.

Perazzini’s AF Corse Ferrari also speared into the tyre wall and was pitched into the air, landing upside down. Miraculously, both drivers were able to free themselves from the carnage. While the Italian appeared uninjured, Davidson was treated at the side of the track before being taken by ambulance to hospital.

The former Formula One racer, suffering from shock and back pain, was reported as “walking wounded” and talking to the doctors.

But there was further misery for Toyota an hour later when the race restarted after the cars had followed the Safety Cars while repairs were made to the track.

The second Toyota of Kazuki Nakajima ended the hopes of Bathgate’s Marino Franchitti when it barged the Nissan DeltaWing into a wall.

The 33-year-old Scot, who had developed the Batmobile lookalike, hadn’t even driven the car in the race. He was due to take over from team-mate Satoshi Motoyama, who was behind the wheel when his countryman inexplicably rammed him off the track.

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With both Toyota hybrids out, the Audi e-tron quattros of pole-sitter Andre Lotterer, and 42-year-old Dumfries racer McNish, headed into the night holding the top two positions, separated by just two minutes.

And there was mixed news for the other two Scots in the race, Fifer Peter Dumbreck and Airdrie’s Ryan Dalziel.

Dumbreck, back in a prototype race car at Le Mans for the first time since his Mercedes crashed into the trees in 1999, was lying sixth before he hit trouble.

Eight hours into the race, his JRM Honda suffered a puncture early in the 8.46-mile lap, and the 38-year-old from Kirkcaldy lost bucketloads of time as he nursed the car back to the pits, dropping to 15th.

Dalziel meanwhile had moved up to fourth in the LMP2 class, and 10th overall, in his Starworks Honda.