Audi Take Hard Fought Victory In Belgium
The no7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler took a second victory from two starts in 2015 with a hard fought win at the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps that had the large Belgian crowd on the edge of their seats.
In his last stint Treluyer had to fight Neel Jani in the no18 Porsche 919 all the way to the chequered flag, with the two cars going wheel to wheel, and a late stop for fuel left the French driver just 13 seconds ahead of the Porsche with 15-minutes on the clock. The run to the flag was nail biting but the no7 Audi crossed the finish line with fireworks exploding above the track to the delight of the German team.
After taking 1-2-3 in qualifying the Porsche Team held the upper hand in the first half of the race but they didn’t have it all their own way as first the no19 LMP1 of Nick Tandy had to go back to the garage early in the race after a collision with the no91 Porsche 911 of Kevin Estre. The collision, which earned Estre a penalty, caused some serious body work damage to the 919 but the Porsche mechanics replaced the damaged parts and had the car back on track in less than four minutes.
The pole sitting no17 Porsche 919 of Brendon Hartley led from the start but was given a stop go penalty for using a run off area near to a group of marshals after he outbraked himself into the last corner. The car then had to go into the garage after a problem with the rear suspension was diagnosed, losing a lap to the leaders. Hartley and his teammates Timo Bernhard and Mark Webber fought back and were rewarded with third place on the podium, one lap down, with Hartley setting a new lap record for the WEC at Spa with a 1m57.972 lap, 3.2 seconds quicker than the previous best time.
The no2 TS040 of Stephane Sarrazin, Alex Wurz and Mike Conway had an early battle with the no9 Audi R18 and eventually finished three laps behind the leaders in fifth. The no1 Toyota of Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi, which had been rebuilt after the accident in free practice, hit problems with a sticking throttle and had to return to the pits several times. The reigning world champions eventually finished 8th, 14 laps down.
The no8 Audi of Oliver Jarvis, Loic Duval and Lucas Di Grassi also had an electrical problem that saw the car in the garage for several laps, the problem eventually being solved by a new ECU. In the last few laps Jarvis ended up in the tyre wall at Turn 14 after going straight on. The British driver managed to get the car to the flag to be classified in 7th overall.
The sole LMP1 privateer entry, the no4 Team Bykolles CLM P1/01-AER, completed 46 laps before hitting technical issues which sidelined the Austrian team for the second race in a row.
In LMP2 a jump start by the no38 JOTA Sport Gibson-Nissan of Harry Tincknell ended in a drive through penalty for the Englishman but also set up a brilliant fight back drive that had everyone on the edge of their seats. The no26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan, which won the opening round at Silverstone, was leading the class, while Tincknell and then Mitch Evans who took over the driver duties, moved up through the field to take the lead on the run into the final corner. Evans handed the car over to Simon Dolan before Tincknell took the car to the chequered flag to record the team’s fourth WEC podium finish at Spa and the second win for the European Le Mans Series front runners and reigning LMP2 24 Hours of Le Mans champions.
The no26 G-Drive Ligier was on the same lap as the JOTA Gibson but suddenly the Ligier slowed with smoke coming from the engine bay. The car was recovered to the pits by Sam Bird and it came out to take the chequered flag to be classified in 10th place. However there was some joy in the G-Drive pit when the no28 Ligier of Pipo Derani, Ricardo Gonzalez and Gustavo Yacaman scored another second place finish to add to the one they recorded in Silverstone.
The no43 Team Sard Morand Morgan Evo took the final podium place on the team’s WEC debut with Pierre Ragues, Oliver Webb and Zoel Amberg taking the chequered flag two laps behind the JOTA Sport Gibson and 17 seconds ahead of the no47 KCMG ORECA-Nissan of Matt Howson, Richard Bradley and Nicolas Lapierre. The Hong Kong entry had started from the pitlane with a 30-second penalty after being excluded from qualifying after failing technical scrutineering.
The Signatech Alpine was fifth in class, ahead of the no42 Strakka Racing Dome, the no35 Oak Racing Ligier and the two Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligiers, which were making their debut at Spa and suffered a few technical issues during the race.
The next race will be the 24 Heures du Mans with the test day on the 31 May followed by the race on the 13/14 June.