September 26, 2002
The idea to run a 24 hour race in Le Mans was born in 1922 at the Salon de l´Automobile in Paris. Eighty years later at the same place the Automobile Club de l´Ouest (ACO), the organiser of the Le Mans 24 Hour race, have handed over the historic Le Mans trophy to AUDI AG. “Audi is proud to be the first manufacturer in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hour race to call the Le Mans trophy its own,” declared Dr Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board at AUDI AG, who received the prestigious trophy from ACO President Michel Cosson.
At the beginning of the nineties the Automobile Club de l´Ouest created the trophy, presented each year to the Le Mans winner and handed back to the ACO before the start of the next race. At the same time, the organiser decided that if a manufacturer won the Le Mans 24 Hours with the same team three times in a row it could keep the trophy forever.
The Audi Sport Team Joest succeeded in securing this hat-trick in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Hence, the trophy now is owned by AUDI AG and in the future will be on view in the Audi museum mobile in Ingolstadt. “In scoring three consecutive Le Mans victories Audi has achieved something very rare and this feat goes down in the history books of the 24 hour race and automobile sport,” said ACO President Cosson at the trophy presentation. “The trophy will link Audi and Le Mans together forever.”
The Audi “works” drivers, Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro, who was the first driver squad to win the Le Mans 24 Hour race three times in succession, were also honoured in Paris. “Such an outstanding success is only reached thanks to a huge team effort,” declared Dr Winterkorn. “My thanks go to the entire Audi team.”
The Automobile Club de l´Ouest now faces an unusual task: By the next 24 hour race on 14/15 June 2003, a new winners´ trophy must be created.