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:

Electrical problem shorts out leading Toyota; Audi goes to the front

LE MANS, France -- Racing towards a sunrise, at approximately 4:30 in the morning, the No. 7 S040 HYBRID Toyota suffered a cataclysmic electrical failure, stranding the car on the course, and seemingly putting it out of the race. That left first place to the No. 2 Audi with second place being held down by the No. 20 919 Porsche, that is three laps off the leader's pace. In third is the No. 1 Audi, that was a lap down to the Porsche, but which has been making up time with every lap and as the sun began to rise, was only 40 seconds out of second place. The No. 14 Porsche 919 is running in fourth place 11 laps off the leader's pace while the No. 8 Toyota is in fifth place another 30 seconds behind the Porsche.

With 12 hours to go, Toyota leads

LE MANS, France -- With 12 hours left in the 82nd running of the 24 Hours of Le Man, it appears that only thing that can stop to the race-leading No. 7 Toyota hybrid is the No. 7 Toyota hybrid. Driven by the trio of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, and Kazuki Nakajima, the No 7. TS040 HYBRID Toyota had set top time and was the pole-setter. It has shown speed and handling and at the mid-point of the race held an approximate two minute lead on the No. 2 Audi. A heavy rain had a drastic effect on the  No. 8 Toyota, which was involved in a multi-car accident in very poor visibility on an extremely slippery track. Driver Nicolas Lapierre brought the car back to the pits where team members immediately began to replace the front and rear bodywork as well as the suspension assembly at the front left corner. Efficient work from the team saw repairs completed within 50 minutes but the damage was done. That same incident also took out the No. 3 Audi, as the team Ingolstadt continued to be snake-bit. However, the No. 2 e-tron quattro Audi with Marcel FÄSSLER, André LOTTERER, and Benoit TRÉLUYER, two time winners, have pushed into second position. While they do not seem to have the all-out speed of the Toyota they have continued to keep the pressure on. The No. 1 Audi, the defending Le Mans and WEC champion had been running as high as third (as of the mid-point) and on the same lap as the leaders before an injector problem forced the car into the garage for a repair session dropping it out of the top three. Team Porsche saw its No. 20 car driven by Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber,  and Brendon Hartley take over third place when the Audi went to the garage. Interestingly enough, Bernhard won the 24 Hours of Le Mans driving for Audi.
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