Audi wins FIA WEC Six Hours of Spa in race of attrition
Audi has claimed victory in Saturday’s WEC Six Hours of Spa, following one of the most attrition-filled and unpredictable races in the history of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Oliver Jarvis took the No. 8 Audi R18 across the line two laps ahead of the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Romain Dumas, which completed nearly the entire race without full hybrid power.
It was only one of the numerous issues to hit the factory prototypes, with every LMP1 hybrid having made at least one trip to the garage, if not retiring, over the course of the battle-scarred race.
The No. 8 Audi took over the lead with less than two hours to go when Kazuki Nakajima’s No. 5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid suffered engine failure, when out front by nearly 1 lap.
It came just one hour after the sister Toyota Gazoo Racing entry retired, also with engine issues, but triggered by an electronics gremlin for the No. 6 car, which went to the garage early following contact with another car.
With both Porsches hitting trouble and the No. 7 Audi delayed by multiple trips to the garage for a broken floor, temperature issues and on-track incidents, it helped pave the way for the No. 8 car to take the win.
However, it wasn’t completely clear sailing for Jarvis, as he too, visited the garage in the final hour, while under the race’s one-and-only safety car period, to change the car’s rear deck.
The Englishman lost one lap of his three-lap lead, but ultimately did not factor into the result.
Jarvis and co-driver Lucas Di Grassi both claimed their first career WEC victories, alongside 2013 World Champion Loic Duval.
The No. 2 Porsche, which encountered hybrid issues with just 15 minutes into the race, finished 2nd, benefiting from the large rate of attrition from the other factory prototypes.
Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb often ran more than five seconds off the pace as a result, but logged a consistent race to retain their championship lead.
The No. 13 Rebellion R-One of Matheo Tuscher, Dominik Kraihamer and Alexandre Imperatori scored a shock third place overall result for Rebellion Racing.
It was the team’s second straight overall podium finish, although first time on the actual podium after inheriting third following post-race scrutineering at Silverstone.
The No. 12 Rebellion entry came home fourth, with the No. 7 Audi completing the top-five overall after a late-race collision with the No. 43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier JS P2 Nissan.
Defending World Champions Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard had a horrid race, with two consecutive left-front punctures in the second hour, followed by gearbox issues that kept the No. 1 Porsche in the garage for most of the race.
A gutsy three-wide move for the lead by Nicolas Lapierre in the closing minutes propelled Signatech Alpine its first LMP2 class victory of the season and the first for the Alpine A460 Nissan.
Lapierre was locked into a battle with Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier JS P2 Nissan, who managed to pass the Frenchman with less than 10 minutes to go.
However, Lapierre caught back up after Derarni got stuck in traffic and passed him while on the outside of Marino Franchitti’s No. 67 Ford GT to retake the lead and class win in dramatic fashion.
Lapierre finished 3.579 seconds ahead of Derani, with a last-lap move by Roberto Merhi on Filipe Albuquerque giving the No. 45 Manor Oreca 05 Nissan its first podium finish in WEC competition.
ESM’s Derani, Ryan Dalziel and Chris Cumming provisionally leave Spa as the LMP2 points leaders with their second-place result.
AF Corse scored its second straight GTE-Pro class victory, but lost out on a sure-fire 1-2 finish following late-race drama.
A mechanical issue for the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE of James Calado sent the class-leading entry into the garage and out of the race, handing top honors to the sister No. 71 entry of Davide Rigon and Sam Bird.
It marked their second consecutive class victory after also earning the pole and the win in Silverstone last month.
In comparison with the prototype classes, the GTE-Pro battle was relatively quiet, except for two heavy crashes through the course of the race.
The first came near the halfway point, when Nicki Thiim was tapped into the tire barrier by Simon Dolan’s G-Drive Racing LMP2 Gibson 015S Nissan.
The No. 95 Aston Martin V8 Vantage flipped over after it made contact with the barrier and was forced to retire with heavy damage.
Just prior to the final hour, Stefan Muecke spun out at Eau Rouge and smashed into the barrier, destroying his No. 66 Ford GT. This brought a nearly 30-minute long safety car period for cleanup.
Both drivers escaped serious injuries in the accidents.
The No. 67 Ford of Mario Franchitti, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell came home one lap behind in second, giving Ford its best WEC finish, with the No. 97 Aston Martin of Jonny Adam, Richie Stanaway and Fernando Rees completing the podium in third.
The GTE-Am battle was between the No. 98 Aston Martin and No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia GT for most of the race, but it was Pedro Lamy and the AMR team that took the class honors, ahead of Patrick Long’s Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche in second.
Lamy started from pole but was overtaken by Rui Aguas at the start. A collision at Les Combes between Aguas and a GTE-Pro Ford put the No. 98 car back into the lead.
However, AF Corse survived a couple of penalties and moved back into the lead, only to once again lose it to Lamy with 33 minutes to go.
Lamy shared class honors with Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda.
The No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R, driven at the end by Pierre Ragues, completed the podium.