FIA WEC: Audi achieves back-to-back wins to open 2015 season
Audi has claimed back-to-back FIA World Endurance Championship victories after outdueling and outsmarting rival Porsche in Saturday’s record-setting Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
Benoit Treluyer took his No. 7 Audi R18-eton quattro to a narrow 13.424-second win over the No. 18 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Neel Jani, in another FIA WEC thriller that saw a hard-fought battle until the checkered flag.
The Audi and Porsche fought tooth-and-nail in the final two hours, with Treluyer and Marc Lieb swapping the lead multiple times, and even making slight contact at least once in the heated fight between the LMP1 heavyweights.
It all came down to the timing of the final round of pit stops, with Jani first to pit, for fuel only with 36 minutes to go, followed by Treluyer some 15 minutes later and opting to triple-stint his tires.
The Frenchman maintained his 13-second gap over Jani following the stop to give he and co-drivers Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler their second overall victory of the season.
They smashed the six-hour distance record along the way, with the winning No. 7 Audi completing 1232.7 kilometers (765 miles), in a race that went caution-free.
Jani, Lieb and Romain Dumas were forced to settle for second in the end, followed by the pole-sitting No. 17 Porsche of Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber, which rallied from an early race penalty and suspension issues to complete the podium in third.
Porsches ran 1-2-3 from the start until the No. 19 car of Nick Tandy made contact with Kevin Estre’s No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR in the opening laps, resulting in a trip to the garage for nose repairs to the 919 Hybrid.
Tandy and fellow prototype debutants Earl Bamber and F1 star Nico Hulkenberg finished three laps back in sixth, behind the No. 9 Audi and No. 2 Toyota TS040 Hybrid, which both had relatively quiet runs.
It wasn’t the case for their sister entries, however, with defending World Champions Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi finishing 14 laps behind in eighth after a throttle issue in the fourth hour.
The No. 8 Audi, meanwhile, made multiple trips to the garage with electrical issues. While the ECU was eventually replaced, Oliver Jarvis went straight off into the barriers due to a suspected power issue in the closing minutes.
LMP2 saw a dominant run from wild card entry Jota Sport, which took top class honors in the cost-capped prototype ranks.
The No. 38 Gibson 015S Nissan of Harry Tincknell, Simon Dolan and Mitch Evans outran the FIA WEC regulars for the commanding win.
GP2 veteran Evans, in his sports car racing debut, took over the lead late in the opening hour, rebounding from a 15-second stop-and-hold penalty for jumping the start.
Despite challenges from G-Drive Racing, the British squad held control from that point forward, with Evans cruising to a one-lap win.
It marked the Sam Hignett-led Jota squad’s second FIA WEC class win at Spa in the last four years.
The No. 28 G-Drive Ligier JS P2 Nissan of Gustavo Yacaman, Pipo Derani and Ricardo Gonzalez finished second but claimed maximum points as a result of Jota not being a full-season entrant.
They benefitted from engine failure by the class pole-sitting sister No. 26 Ligier-Nissan of Sam Bird with 1 hour and 20 minutes to go, which had been running second at the time.
The No. 43 Team SARD-Morand Morgan LMP2 EVO of Pierre Ragues, Oliver Webb and Zoel Amberg completed the podium in third, in the team’s series debut after being forced to miss the opening round at Silverstone.
Aston Martin translated its pole sweep into a double class victory on Saturday, with the British manufacturer claiming GTE-Pro and GTE-Am honors..
Fernando Rees took the No. 99 Aston Martin Vantage V8 to a hard-fought victory in GTE-Pro, benefiting from a pit lane penalty for Gianmaria Bruni’s AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia in the closing minutes.
Bruni was handed a one-minute stop-and-go penalty for his crew not properly handling tires during the No. 51 car’s final stop with 54 minutes to go.
While a quicker stop for the Aston Martin got Rees out ahead of Bruni, the defending GTE-Pro World Champion reeled in the Brazilian and passed him just moments before being forced to serve his penalty with four minutes to go.
It gave clear sailing to Rees, who along with Richie Stanaway and Alex MacDowell each celebrated their first GTE-Pro class victories.
The No. 92 Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR of Fred Makowiecki and Richard Lietz came home second, followed by the sister entry of GTE debutants Kevin Estre and Sven Mueller, with both cars capitalizing on the Ferrari’s misfortune.
Both Porsches rebounded following challenging races, which included a drive-through penalty for Lietz, who made a late-race pass on Turner for the eventual runner-up position.
Bruni and co-driver Toni Vilander finished fifth, ahead of the No. 97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner, Stefan Muecke and Rob Bell, which gambled on an out-of-sequence pit stop strategy that didn’t play out.
Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana, meanwhile, scored a flag-to-flag victory in GTE-Am, with the trio taking their No. 98 Aston Martin to a 1 minute and 45-second win over the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari in second.
It marked their second class win of the season and the only team to be undefeated in poles and race wins heading into next month’s double points-paying 24 Hours of Le Mans.