Audi takes Spa, Le Mans next

FRANCOCHAMPS, Belgium — Sometimes the race isn’t to the swift!
In the last race of the World Endurance Series before the storied 24 hour of Le Mans Audi once again used superior race management tactics, overcoming early Porsche dominance to earn its second victory of the  World Endurance Championship Series in the 2015 season.
Indeed, it appeared that the Porsche showed up at the track in the Ardennes loaded for game, as the team took the top three spots in qualifying and appeared to have the field covered.
Even the vaunted defending champion Toyota seemed out of sorts, with a crash to the No. 1 car during a practice session in the rain sending Kazuki Nakajima to the hospital with a cracked vertebrae.
When the green flag dropped Team Porsche dominated, and looked particularly impressive as it powered through Eau Rouge and up the Kemmel Straight. The Porsche 919 Hybrid has switched to an eight megajoule system this year and it seemed as if it had an extra gear, seemingly jumping 50 yards ahead of the trailing Audi on this section of the track. It was impressive and it certainly gave pause to whether the Porsche formula for its power package, which utilizes the higher capacity eight mega joule hybrid component gave them that advantage. Porsche has indicated that it will make full use of the system on the Circuit de la Sarthe in June, but might be at a disadvantage on the shorter courses.
But as the race went on all of the P1 teams had their issues and the order of the cars, particularly behind the leader, seemed to shuffle regularly. However, the No. 7 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro with Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer, and Benoit Treluyer doing the steering never let the Porsche get out of reach.
The Audi trio doggedly tracked the the No. 18 Porsche 919 Hybrid driven by Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, and Marc Lieb waiting for their moment to make a move.
With about 90 minutes left in the race, Treluyler and Lieb hooked up in a side-by side battle that ultimately saw Treluyer get around Lieb, passing the Porsche on the outside and never looking back. It was then that Audi tire strategy paid off.
Three minutes later the Porsche pitted for a driver change and tires and fuel. When it excited the pits the gap between first and second was more than a minute. The Porsche soldiered on, clipping some seconds of the lead. The Audi pitted, but did not change tires or drivers. With about 20 minutes left in the race the Audi made a splash and dash stop, triple-stinting the Michelin tires and take the R18 etron quattro to the checkered flag.
In many ways, as tight and great as the racing between to the Audi and Porsche was, it was surprising that the Audi was able to win. The Porsche show incredible acceleration, seemingly pulling away from the Audi on every straight. But the Audi, using its Le Mans aero package, was able to to endure and tkae the win. The Porsche was second and third and the Toyota finished out of the money as it played catch-up the entire weekend.

Top 10:

1 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro), 176 laps
2 Dumas/Jani/Lieb (Porsche) +13.424s
3 Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (Porsche) –1 lap
4 Albuquerque/Bonanomi/Rast (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) –2 laps
5 Conway/Sarrazin/Wurz (Toyota) –3 laps
6 Hülkenberg/Bamber/Tandy (Porsche) –3 laps
7 di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) –8 laps
8 Davidson/Buemi (Toyota) –14 laps
9 Dolan/Evans/Tincknell (Nissan) –15 laps
10 Yacaman/Derani/Gonzalez (Ligier) –16 laps

There are some really great videos of the outstanding action at Spa. Here is a link to one:

Audi out duels Toyota, Porsche at Silverstone

SILVERSTONE, UK — Audi’s redesigned R18 LMP1 No. 7, the defending Le Mans championship team, battled with its Porsche and Toyota rivals to take a thrilling victory at the first race of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) series on Sunday at the famed Silverstone track. The race was a continuous battle between the three P1 teams with the Audi team driven by Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer, and Benoit Treluyer eking out a 4.160 second win over their Porsche counterpart and a nearly 15 second win over the Toyota.

The Porsche team showed in qualifying that it would be a team to be contended with at Silverstone as it took the top two positions as Audi and Toyota split the three through six positions. The Porsche dominance in qualifying was impressive but razor thin, as a scant .030 seconds was the difference between second and fourth. The eventual winners of the race were strangely nearly 1.5 seconds off the fast time posted by Porsche.

In fact that race started pretty horrible for the No. 7 Audi as Treluyer couldn’t get the car in the proper gear for the start and fell way off the pace from his number five starting position. The Audi spent the next 2.5 hours fighting its way back through half of the field. When Lotterer jumped into the seat at the 2.5 hour mark it took him just 30 minutes to move the Audi racer to the lead and for most of the last half of the race it was a dice-a-rama that not even a NASCAR race could compete. In particular, the gripping duel between Fässler and Porsche driver Neel Jani across many laps, in which the two Swiss overtook each other several times per lap, was particularly impressive and thrilling to fans in attendance.

“A perfect day for Audi and for our team,” said Lotterer. “We were under pressure from the first to the last lap and could not afford to slip. We managed to do this, and the team did everything right at the pit stops and with the perfect strategy. Now, we’re going to take this momentum with us to Spa and to Le Mans.”

Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich said after the race,  “This victory is a dream start of the season and a great reward for the whole squad for the hard work last winter. At the same time, this success motivates us even more for the great challenges awaiting us the next few weeks. The weekend at Silverstone has also shown that we could be facing what may be the most thrilling and fiercely contested WEC season ever.”

“This was quite an interesting race with great battles. Especially fighting with Marcel Fässler was good fun. This is what racing is for! It is a shame that in the end it didn’t work out for us to take the win when the leading car had the stop and go penalty. It became quite tight again. It is great that all three manufacturers are so close together. This is going to be an exciting season. In the end I was really able to attack with our Porsche 919 Hybrid. We have improved the car a lot since last year. There is still some work to do, but we are going in a good direction,” said Jani in post race comments.

Next up the WEC series moves the Ardennes and the Spa race track, the second race of the WEC season and six weeks from the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Race results

1 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) 201 laps
2 Dumas/Jani/Lieb (Porsche) +4.160s
3 Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima (Toyota) +14.816s
4 Conway/Sarrazin/Wurz (Toyota) -1 lap
5 di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) -4 laps
6 Rusinov/Canal/Bird (Ligier-Nissan) -16 laps
7 Yacaman/Derani/Gonzalez (Ligier-Nissan) -17 laps
8 Dalziel/Sharp/Heinemeier Hansson (HPD-Honda) -18 laps
9 Leventis/Watts/Kane (Dome-Nissan) -23 laps
10 Bruni/Vilander (Ferrari) -29 laps



Audi Le Mans retrospective


A look back at some classic images of the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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