June 17 and 18ne 17–18, 2006.
Prior to this race the ACO redeveloped the area around the Dunlop Curve and Dunlop Chicane, moving the Dunlop Curve in tighter to create more run-off area, while also turning the Dunlop Chicane into a larger set of turns. As part of the development, a new extended pit lane exit was created for motorcycles running the Bugatti Circuit. This second pit exit re-enters the track just beyond the Dunlop Chicane and before the Dunlop Bridge.
Before the official test days, the FIA requested that the sportscars should also use this new pit lane, and mandate a 60 km/h speed limit for the entire 450m length, instead of using the normal pit exit in the Dunlop Curve as planned. This was originally used for the Le Mans test days, but due to complaints from the teams the ACO decided to return to the old pit lane exit for the race.
The tension between the new Audi R10 TDIs and Pescarolo C60's in LMP1 started even before the race began. In Wednesday's qualifying, Pescarolo swept the top spots. However, the sessions were wet, and therefore it was impossible to get an idea of what the race would hold. For the Thursday qualifying session conditions were dry, and Audi swept the front row, while the Pescarolo's started behind them. In LMP2, the Ray Mallock Ltd. Lola ran a full two seconds quicker than the new Intersport Lola. In LMGT1, the Aston Martin factory squad swept the front row, with the #64 Corvette right behind them. Finally, in GT2, the French IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche took the quickest time; however, Luca Riccitelli took the car off at Nord du Karting at the end of the session, injuring his ankle and badly damaging the chassis of the car. In a unique move, the ACO went against its own rules and granted permission for the team to replace the chassis with a brand new car. Even with this aid, the car was still forced to start at the back of the grid. The Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 430 thus started at the front for the GT2 class.
Class leaders and the fastest lap time on each day are in bold.
This race marked the first Le Mans win for a diesel engined sports car, the Audi R10 TDI, and the second time that a diesel-powered sports car won a major international motorsports event, following the Audi R10 TDI's win at the 2006 12 Hours of Sebring. However, in touring car racing, a diesel BMW 320d had won the 24 Hours Nürburgring in 1998.
Tom Kristensen could not extend his streak of 6 wins in a row, as his #7 car was less reliable than the winning #8 sister car, even though it had been fastest in practice and race. World Rally champion Sébastien Loeb scored a remarkable second place with the Pescarolo Sport team.
This race also marked the first time since the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans that Porsche (or a Porsche powered prototype) did not win at least one class. A Panoz Esperante was successful in upsetting the contingent of Porsches in the GT2 class.
Sports Car Races