Following the thrilling season opener of the FIA World Endurance Championship in Great Britain, Audi was unbeatable again in Belgium. On the challenging track at Spa, Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer proved their class by clinching their second victory this season and tenth WEC success in total.
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, a technical board member for Audi, picked a good day to watch his team extended its lead in round two of the Championship. Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer had travelled to Spa with an advantage of 7 points, increasing that to 14 points for the run to Le Mans. After starting from 4th position, the 2012 World Champions had stayed on the heels of the front runners and improved to third place during the first laps. Marcel Fässler spinning in the first hour temporarily cost car #7 one position but the Swiss and his team-mates made a quick recovery.
Four hours into the race, André Lotterer in the hybrid sports car took the Audi into the lead for the first time. The 54,000 fans in the Ardennes forest witnessed a gripping battle for first place that saw the lead change after each pit stop. The battle came to a head in the final stages. Ninety minutes before the end of the race, Benoît Tréluyer took the top spot from Porsche driver Marc Lieb, the Frenchman reached the chequered flag with an advantage of 13.424 seconds. “What a race,” Tréluyer said. “It was a tough lights-to-flag job, just like at Silverstone, but it was huge fun and we’re already looking forward to Le Mans.”
Fässler told us “It was a fantastic race! Winning twice in a row feels good, because we were able to confirm our performance from Silverstone here. I was especially happy about this victory for the mechanics and the team that worked so hard last winter. I’d also like to thank my two team-mates for their excellent performances.”
Lotterer explained “For me, Spa is a home round because I grew up in Belgium. Winning a home race in front of many friends and my family is especially sweet. It was a tough job just like Silverstone. We drivers had to make sure not to make any mistakes, go to the limit lap by lap and meet the team’s tactical requirements. The tyres were a key to success today because they were consistent even across longer distances. The season’s been thrilling so far but will surely become even more intense at Le Mans.”
A jubilant Tréluyer added “Clinching the tenth joint WEC victory with André and Marcel was awesome. The duel for victory in a six-hour race has long turned into a battle for tenths of a second. The final stage with the fight against Porsche was huge fun. I’m sure the fans can already look forward to the next classic at Le Mans.”
Car #8 had a great run despite some setbacks. Frenchman Loïc Duval, who races together with Lucas di Grassi and Brit Oliver Jarvis, initially improved to position two. An electrical fault that required two pit stops, with the front hood and an electronic control unit being replaced, cost the squad several minutes four hours into the race. In the last hour, the team had to replace the front hood again after damage caused in a duel. In the final sprint, Oliver Jarvis slid into a gravel trap. “We showed a good pace and are taking that home as a positive from Spa,” said Loïc Duval. “Of course it’s a shame that we lost ground due to some issues. But I’m still optimistic that our run of bad luck is going to end at Le Mans.”
The driver trio of car #9 achieved a good result. The hybrid race car raced with a different body version for higher aerodynamic downforce that had already been used at Silverstone. Audi used the race at Spa for a technical comparison of both concepts with respect to Le Mans and the other WEC rounds. Filipe Albuquerque and Marco Bonanomi along with their team-mate René Rast started the race from eighth place. The German debuted in Audi’s LMP1 race car and in Audi Sport Team Joest impressed with consistently good lap times. When #9 lost its left-hand side window three hours into the race the team replaced the left door at the next pit stop. Despite this small repair job, the driver squad had improved to fourth place when the chequered flag fell. “Driving the Audi R18 e-tron quattro in a race for the first time was awesome,” Rast said. “We delivered a result that I’m very happy with. Now our next big task is coming up at Le Mans.”
“The FIA WEC is developing superbly. The race at Spa has confirmed that the close battle at Silverstone was not a coincidence but that this high competitiveness is characteristic for this season. Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer managed to deliver a brilliant race. In global motorsport, the World Endurance Championship has become a series that draws a lot of attention and is highly respected. I’m convinced that at Le Mans we’re again going to see a sporting competition that’ll be more thrilling than it has been in a long time. At Le Mans, we’re determined to again show that our efficiency technologies prevail. Following a lot of test kilometers and the first two races of the season, we feel that we’re well prepared for tackling these tasks. As in the season opener, the WEC again delivered super-thrilling racing,“ said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich in summing up the event.
“I congratulate our winners and the whole team on this first-class achievement. They turned an endurance race into a sprint and did an impeccable job. A big thank you goes to the other two driver teams as well. I’m sorry that #8 was lacking that little bit of fortune that’s needed in a race. Our trio in #9 ultimately complemented the result for Audi by a good position.”
In just under four weeks from now the team will be at Le Mans for the official test day on the 31st of May. The new Audi R18 e-tron quattro will have its first outing on the ‘Circuit des 24 Heures’ for a day before practice for the 24 Hours of Le Mans starts a few weeks later.
Keep an eye out for more news from Spa over the coming days.
1 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro), 176 laps
2 Dumas/Jani/Lieb (Porsche) +13.424s
3 Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (Porsche) –1 lap
4 Albuquerque/Bonanomi/Rast (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) –2 laps
5 Conway/Sarrazin/Wurz (Toyota) –3 laps
6 Hülkenberg/Bamber/Tandy (Porsche) –3 laps
7 di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) –8 laps
8 Davidson/Buemi (Toyota) –14 laps
9 Dolan/Evans/Tincknell (Nissan) –15 laps
10 Yacaman/Derani/Gonzalez (Ligier) –16 laps