Peugeot having left the category, Audi is now regarded highly as favourite to win this year's 80th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, held this coming weekend.
Since 2000 – Audi's first success, with the R8 –, only to wins have eluded the German team, and still. The Bentley Speed 8, which won in 2003, was powered by Audi.
Only the 2009 edition, Peugeot's only success, can really be considered a loss.
This year, Audi is coming back to Le Mans left alone it seems; Peugeot's departure opening up the door wide open to another success in la Sarthe. Never mind the fact Audi is entering a total of four R18 prototypes this year, including two new e-tron hybrids and two "classic" Ultra diesels.
Then again, Audi might need as many as four cars to bag the win. Last year, only one car made it home; the two other having crashed out of the race in horror – the two drivers escaped unharmed.
Only one obstacle really stands in Audi's way this year: Toyota.
Since the Japanese team ended its F1 program after the 2009 season, it has been preparing a return to racing. Toyota, which already ventured at Le Mans – unsuccessfully – in the '90's, is coming out with two hybrid TS030 prototypes in 2012.
Problem is, preparation ahead of the famous race was cut short for the Japanese: a big crash while testing at the Paul Ricard circuit prevented them from entering the Six Hours of Spa, which means they'll be racing for the first time at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
They have a mountain to climb, but anything can happen.
Behind Audi and Toyota, seven other LMP1 prototypes will race within the race in the unofficial "petrol-powered class".
Among those seven cars are the two B12/60 Lola of Rebellion Racing, the Swiss outfit having already "won" last year, it's starting out as favourite in 2012. Other protagonists for that contest include OAK Racing, with an OAK Pescarolo; and the Pescarolo team itself, with its latest creation the Aston Martin-based AMR-One and an updated Dome S102.5.
Then comes the LMP2 class, certainly the most contested one of this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans.
20 LMP2 prototypes are taking the start, and almost all of them have a shot at victory. Among the favourites are two Greaves Motorsport Zytek Z11SN-Nissan – the British outfit is last year's winner.
Let's not forget Oreca's Signatech-Nissan, OAK Racing's two Morgan and Level 5 Motorsports two HPD.
May be less packed, the GTE Pro class promises to be no less interesting, thanks to the four manufacturers absolutely not interested in giving the win away. Last year's winning team, Corvette, is going out with two official C6.R to try and take the win again.
But don't discount Aston Martin, a team that wants to earn some dignity back after the failure of its AMR-One project – the factory Vantage was quick in free practice. Ferrari and Porsche, through factory-backed teams, will also try and spoil Corvette's day.
The fight in GTE Am too should be no less interesting.
Larbre Compétition, will once again try to come out on top, running this year with the same C6.R that Corvette drove to the win in GTE Pro in 2011. Ferrari, with two AF Corse F458 and Aston Martin, with a second Vantage, have invested in the category as well.
Many private 997 GT3 RSR showed great speed in testing, and could still bring a win home to Porsche.
Then there is the much expected DeltaWing developed by Highcroft racing competing for the first time this weekend. Everyone involved in the project hopes to make a strong first impression. The car showed LMP2 pace during free practice, but more importantly, showcased how little it used tires and burned fuel.
It should be able to finish high in the order, albeit as an unclassified entry.
Noteworthy too are 25 former F1 drivers taking part in the race, as well as many active drivers from other disciplines: IndyCar's Sébastien Bourdais, WRC's Luis Perez-Companc and NASCAR's Brian Vickers.