Audi take impressive victory at Silverstone

posted in: LMP1, LMP2, Race | 0

The #7 Audi R18 of André Lot­ter­er, Benoit Tréyuler and Mar­cel Fässler took the over­all vic­to­ry after an inci­dent-packed 6 Hours of Sil­ver­stone. The pole-sit­ting car didn’t have every­thing its own way, how­ev­er, and ben­e­fit­ted from a num­ber of issues affect­ing the Porsches, includ­ing a mas­sive acci­dent for Bren­don Hart­ley in the #1 919 Hybrid two hours into the race.

Porsche appeared to have the ear­ly-race pace, with Mark Web­ber in the #1 car and Romain Dumas in the #2 machine quick­ly chas­ing down the Aud­is. Web­ber caught and passed Lot­ter­er on lap 16 for the race lead and cement­ed the car’s advan­tage in the ear­ly stages.

All signs point­ed to Porsche supe­ri­or­i­ty, with Hart­ley hold­ing a 42-sec­ond advan­tage over the sis­ter car and a 50-sec­ond lead over the near­est Audi at the two-hour point. On lap 70, how­ev­er, the New Zealan­der attempt­ed an ambi­tious lap­ping manoeu­vre on the #86 Gulf Rac­ing Porsche 911 RSR of Mike Wain­wright around the out­side of turn two. The #1 car ran out of road and slammed into the front of the GTE Am entry, the impact pitch­ing the pro­to­type onto its side and send­ing it career­ing into the grav­el trap.

That wasn’t the end of the dra­ma, either. After Oliv­er Jarvis had com­plained of hybrid prob­lems in his ear­li­er stint, Lucas di Gras­si came to a stand­still under FCY con­di­tions with appar­ent pow­er unit prob­lems. Despite the Brazilian’s des­per­ate attempts to revive the strick­en machine, it was cur­tains for the #8 car’s chal­lenge.

With two of the top four cars now out of the race, it was left to Benoit Tréyuler and Marc Lieb to pick up the chal­lenge. The race returned to green on lap 75 and Tréyuler almost imme­di­ate­ly slipped past the Ger­man on the exit of Copse. What fol­lowed was a game of cat and mouse between the Audi and the Porsche, with the pair dart­ing between traf­fic in an effort to gain an advan­tage.

On lap 102, the #5 Toy­ota TS050 of Kazu­ki Naka­ji­ma suf­fered a punc­ture at Club and had to com­plete almost an entire lap with a flail­ing tyre car­cass destroy­ing much of the rear end. The on-track debris forced Race Direc­tor Eduar­do Fre­itas to call a safe­ty car, giv­ing the Sil­ver­stone mar­shals a chance to sweep up the mess. Nakajima’s prob­lems pro­mot­ed the #13 Rebel­lion R-One of Tuscher/Kraihamer/Imperatori to an impres­sive fourth.

The safe­ty car was with­drawn on lap 107 and the Tréyuler-Lieb bat­tle resumed with a vengeance. With both cars tak­ing risks in traf­fic, it was only a mat­ter of time before con­tact was made. Com­ing into Club, the #66 Ford GT of Mari­no Fran­chit­ti was wrong-foot­ed by the lap­pery and made con­tact with the sec­ond-place Porsche, cost­ing Lieb rough­ly ten sec­onds. As Tréyuler hand­ed the dri­ving duties over to Mar­cel Fässler on lap 128 and Lieb to Jani after 132 laps, the lead gap was at 13 sec­onds.

Into the final hour, there was dra­ma in the Porsche garage as Jani was forced to pit on two con­cur­rent laps. The deci­sion turned out to be the result of a punc­ture on Jani’s out lap, which effec­tive­ly cost the Porsche any chance of vic­to­ry. Fässler com­fort­ably com­plet­ed his final stint and brought his Audi R18 home for the team’s first vic­to­ry since Spa last year. The #2 Porsche fin­ished in sec­ond, while the #6 Toy­ota TS050 of Conway/Sarrazin/Kobayashi fin­ished third, around lap behind the win­ning Audi.

In LMP2, the #43 RGR Sport by Morand Rac­ing car record­ed a debut vic­to­ry ahead of the #31 Extreme Speed Motor­sport machine. In a hec­tic open­ing phase, it was Day­tona and Sebring star Luis Felipe Derani who took an ear­ly lead, pass­ing the pole-sit­ting #26 G-Dri­ve Rac­ing car on lap 1. Bruno Sen­na in the #43 over­took Roman Rusi­nov in the #26 short­ly after­wards and the tone was set for the remain­der of the race.

With Rusi­nov dou­ble-stint­ing at the start of the race, he inher­it­ed the class lead after the first round of pit stops, which he only sur­ren­dered on lap 45. Audi works dri­ver took up the man­tle and drove an out­stand­ing stint, pass­ing five cars to lead after 54 laps. Prob­lems as the race went back to green after the FCY then saw Rast sta­tion­ary at the entry into Mag­gotts, pro­mot­ing the Strak­ka Rac­ing machine and the RGR Sport by Morand car to first and sec­ond respec­tive­ly.

Rast, how­ev­er, soon rose back to the top of the LMP2 rank­ings before hand­ing over to French­man Nathaneal Berthon on lap 114. The longer pit stop for the dri­ver change saw Bruno Sen­na assume the lead of the race in the #43 car. The Brazil­ian then pro­ceed­ed to extend his lead over the #26 car to the best part of a lap by the end of the fourth hour. The G-Dri­ve car was then forced to pit for a new nose after con­tact with an Aston Mar­tin, end­ing its chances of a top-three fin­ish.

With one hour remain­ing, Felipe Albu­querque now held a com­mand­ing lead over the rest of the LMP2 field in the #43 machine. Smart pit-stop tac­tics from the #31 ESM team saw the US-entered Ligi­er leapfrog the recov­er­ing #36 Sig­nat­e­ch-Alpine car in the pit­lane and into sec­ond. Albu­querque took a com­fort­able vic­to­ry for the RGR Sport by Morand Rac­ing squad on its debut sea­son in the World Endurance Cham­pi­onship.

Image sources: WEC-Mag­a­zin //