6 Hours of Spa: Audi celebrates second WEC season victory
The 2012 World Endurance Champions—Marcel Fässler/Andre Lotterer/Benoit Treluyer are proving to be unbeatable this year. After a superb performance at the season opener at Silverstone they have once again won at the Spa-Francorchamps.
In the second round of the 2015 Championship, Audi No. 7 with Treluyer at the wheel was the first to cross the finish line, taking over Porsche No.18 with Neel Jani. In the last stint, Treluyer had to fight Jani all the way to the chequered flag, with the two cars racing neck-to-neck. Eventually it was only a difference if a mere 13 seconds that put Treluyer in the lead.
The pole sitting Porsche No.17 driven by Brendon Hartley led from the start but was given a ‘stop and go’ penalty for using a run-off area near 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, 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. Hartley also setting a new lap record for the WEC at Spa with time 1.57.972, 3.2 seconds quicker than the previous best time.
Andre Lotterer in Audi No.7 took the lead during the fourth hour of the race. After that, 54,000 spectators witnessed a gripping battle for P1 that saw the lead position change after each pit stop.
The battle came to a head in the final stages. Approximately 90 minutes before the end, Benoit Treluyer took the top spot from Porsche driver Marc Lieb, benefiting from the efficient combination of the V6 TDI engine and e-tron quattro hybrid drive, new aerodynamics for Le Mans, as well as tire wear being lower compared with the competition.
The third Porsche had two drivers that entered LMP1 endurance race for the first time – Nico Hulkenberg and Nick Tandy. They started second but lost ground because of an accident with one of the works Porsche 911 RSRs, which was followed by a stop for repairs. They recovered after dropping to the back of the field to finished sixth, behind Toyota No.2 with drivers combination Wurz/Sarrazin/Conway.
Overall the whole weekend was quite disappointing for Toyota Gazoo Racing. The event got off to a bad start on Thursday with Kazuki Nakajima suffering a fractured vertebra during a heavy practice accident in wet conditions and a difficult race day did little to improve the team’s mood. With a larger-than-expected gap between the team and those of Audi and Porsche, the race was an exercise in damage control with the World Championship fight in mind, but that too ended in frustration.
Wurz/Sarrazin/Conway finished fifth, while World Champions Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi in Toyota No.1 suffered technical problems and finished eighth. Electrical problems caused two pit stops for repairs, costing more than 20 minutes which left Buemi 14 laps off the lead in 14th when he returned to the action.
In the Championship, before the season’s pinnacle event, the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 13 and 14, Audi has advantage of 17 points more than Porsche and 23 points more than Toyota.
In LMP2 Class, a jump start by the No.38 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. The No.26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan, which won the opening at Silverstone, was leading the class. First 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 victory for Jota Sport.
The No.26 G-Drive Ligier was on the same lap as the Jota’s 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 the 10th place. However there was some reason to be cheer in the G-Drive pit because No.28 Ligier of Pippo Derani, Ricardo Gonzalez and Gustavo Yacaman scored the second place finish. The No.43 Team Sard Morand Morgan Evo took the final podium place on the team’s WEC debut with Pierre Ragues, Oliver Webb and Zoel Amberg.
In the LMGTE Pro Class, the No.99 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Fernando Rees, Alex MacDowell and Richie Stanaway took their first WEC win in front of No.92 Porsche Team Manthey entered Porsche 911 RSR driven by Richard Lietz and Frederic Makowiecki.
In LMGTE Am Class No.98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda claimed a second consecutive victory. They have now taken maximum points at each of the first two rounds and marked a remarkable fifth win from the last seven WEC events.
For full results, look at FIA WEC official site.