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WEC LMP1 Round 2 Spa ... Toyota wins and Audi achieves second place

Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1 (Audi Sport Team Joest), Lucas di Grassi (BR), Loïc Duval (F), Tom Kristensen (DK)

Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1 (Audi Sport Team Joest), Lucas di Grassi (BR), Loïc Duval (F), Tom Kristensen (DK)


Spa, May 3, 2014

Round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Spa marked the first event this year in which the relative strengths at the front of the field began to show, as this time the LMP1 hybrid sports cars of all three manufacturers finished the race. Audi, in front of 46,000 spectators, achieved second place with a gap of 1m 13.926s.

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After Audi was unfortunate in the WEC season opener two weeks ago with two retirements, round two produced a clearer picture of the effects of the new efficiency regulations and its ratings. Lucas di Grassi (BR) and the two World Champions Loïc Duval (F) and Tom Kristensen (DK) battled and finished the Spa 6 Hours as the runners-up. As the R18 e-tron quattro diesel hybrid sports car did not quite achieve the lap times of the best race cars with gasoline engines, which have a different rating than the efficient TDI power-plant, Audi opted for a different strategy. To save time, Audi Sport Team Joest changed the tires of car #1 only at every second refueling stop.

Di Grassi/Duval/Kristensen advanced to third place at the race’s midpoint, fighting a varied battle with the #7 Toyota for second place. The last pit stop produced a preliminary decision: 21 minutes before the end of the race, Loïc Duval had to refuel for the seventh time and went back out with a four-second advantage. He successfully defended second place to the finish, with a 6.935-second advantage over the third-placed car.

Car #2, which only achieved fifth place, experienced a race with setbacks. An electric receiver for the lap trigger had separated at an early stage of the race. As a result, the R18 e-tron quattro of Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer (CH/D/F) was no longer receiving the organizer’s lap signal at the beginning of the race. As this pulser serves various systems André Lotterer was not able to use the full hybrid power of his race car either until the repair. A pressure loss in a tire on lap 101 cost car #2 additional time.

By contrast, Filipe Albuquerque (P) and Marco Bonanomi (I) achieved a good rhythm. Their #3 R18 e-tron quattro tested the aerodynamics variant for the Le Mans 24 Hours. At the same time, sports car rookie Albuquerque on his WEC debut familiarized himself with his new race car while Bonanomi, following a year as a test and reserve driver, contested his first race again. Further into the race, both Audi drivers kept improving their lap times and ultimately finished in sixth place.

After the round at Spa, the WEC teams will meet again at Le Mans for the test day on June 1. Two weeks later, the season’s pinnacle event is on the agenda – the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 14 and 15 in which Audi has celebrated twelve victories to date.

Quotes after the race

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport)
“A second place was the best we could make out of the situation today. I’m happy that we managed to do that. We got all the cars to finish and none of the cars is damaged. After the Silverstone opener, that’s a positive outcome. There’s still a lot to do and we’re tackling these tasks.”

Chris Reinke (Head of LMP)
“For us at Audi Sport, it was a huge effort to put all three cars on the grid in such a solid technical condition, to finish the race with a respectable result and to take a podium in the process. Obviously, we’d aimed for more but we did a good job of preparing for Le Mans, which had been our main goal. Car #3 gathered important findings too, so that we can leave Spa with a feeling of satisfaction.”

Ralf Jüttner (Team Director Audi Sport Team Joest)
“We’ve got to be happy about second place. Congratulations to Toyota, they really built a good car. We drove our first real race this season and have scored points and gained experience. This race was a relief after the run at Silverstone. We finished with all three cars and drove an almost flawless race. Only in the case of car #2, things weren’t running smoothly in every respect. But under the given conditions, we weren’t able to keep the pace of the winning car. On a positive note, the tires still worked very well on the second stint. But we were running cars #1 and #2 with more downforce, which helps here. We learned a lot, also with car #3.”

Lucas di Grassi (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1)
“A big thank you to the mechanics and the team that prepared two new cars for us before the race. We gave our best today and squeezed out every tiny bit. Today we drove with the WEC aerodynamics, which helped us change the tires only at every second pit stop. Everybody did an outstanding job, but we’re going to have to improve some more in order to be in contention at Le Mans.”

Loïc Duval (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1)
“This was the best we could achieve today. The start was good, just like the team performance and the strategy. The car felt fantastic but we weren’t fast enough. We need to continue to work hard. The race at Le Mans has a unique character. The number of pit stops will play a role too.”

Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1)
“With a very good team performance we achieved second place although we’re not on a par in terms of acceleration and top speed. But we didn’t give up. The mechanics, the engineers and all the other team members can be proud. Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval and I managed to drive a nice race. Fortune played a bit of a role in this second place, but so did plenty of ambition. I do not see us as the favorites at Le Mans this year.”

Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2)
“It was a difficult race because we had a few technical issues. For us, it was a bit disappointing that we couldn’t quite keep the pace. We battled and our squad gave everything. It was certainly not a lack of commitment. There’s a lot to be analyzed. After Silverstone, it was important to finish the race. It’s clear that now we’ve got to improve some more.”

André Lotterer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2)
“’Well done’ to car #1 because second place is positive for Audi. Unfortunately, for us, it wasn’t the optimal race. I had problems with the lap signal, which also impaired the hybrid performance. And then, to make things worse, there was the pressure loss in the tire. That’s why we lost a lot of ground and tried to make the best of it. More than fifth place wasn’t possible but our motivation remains very high.”

Benoît Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2)
“It was a tough race for us. We had to cope with a few setbacks. The team did a very good job. I’ve never seen a repair being done so fast. We lost almost no time. I congratulate this squad that has already had so much hard work to do after Silverstone. It wasn’t our weekend. We learned a lot and that’s good for Le Mans.”

Filipe Albuquerque (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3)
“It was a good debut for car #3 and for me. I made no mistakes and we initially followed our team-mates. We learned a lot here for Le Mans. That was our main goal. I’m pleased with the race. It was great fun. Marco and I squeezed the maximum out of the car.”

Marco Bonanomi (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3)
“It’s a great feeling to be back in a racing situation, to be battling for positions and to give everything on every lap. I’m happy with that. But the result isn’t what we aimed for. We knew before the start that our package differs from those of the others. We learned a lot and improved since the qualifying session. We’re looking ahead to Le Mans with a positive spirit and are ready to battle on the same level as the others.”

Fritz Enzinger, Porshe Vice President LMP1
“It was our main target to finish the race with both Porsche 919 Hybrids and this is what we have managed. But after we had achieved pole position and saw very good lap times in the race we certainly hoped for a better result. But due to the technical problems, especially on car no. 20, it wasn’t possible today.”

Alexander Hitzinger, Porsche Technical Director LMP1
“In car no. 14 we’ve had a false alarm which has switched off the hybrid system. Romain then had to do a time consuming reactivation procedure. We are very conservative when it comes to safety of our hybrid systems, so such a thing can happen and there is some homework to do. The Porsche no. 20 had problems with the rear dampers plus two failures of the front drive shaft. We knew this was a critical part and we are prepared to use stronger parts at the next test and in Le Mans. We have been fast in qualifying and in the race and brought both cars home – for us this was the most important target for the weekend.”

Andreas Seidl, Porsche Team Principal LMP1
“The weekend had many positive moments, for example our qualifying performance and lap times in the race. But at the same time it has shown what is still missing here and there. Nevertheless: In the race we were on the same level as the competition. Overall we have learnt a lot. The team has once again done a great job. This was another important next step towards Le Mans.”

Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid #14
Romain Dumas
“I am happy to have done my very first race stint in the Porsche 919 Hybrid now. Unfortunately we had an electrical issue after I had jumped in and it is a shame it cost a lap. In the end Neel took over again because it was clear we could not do two and a half stints with one set of tyres but maybe one and a half to get away with a splash and dash in the end.“

Neel Jani
“I knew it would be important for me to defend P1 in the first corner after the start, I was really committed through La Source and then I had to take a bit of a risk in Eau Rouge as well. I gave everything in the first stint and that was how I managed to get a good lead. The second set of tyres somehow was less comfortable but I could stay in the lead. I think in Silverstone we were okay in qualifying but nowhere in the race. Here we were very good in qualifying and could lead the race for a long time. Looks like good progress.“

Marc Lieb
“I have had a rather quiet stint but nevertheless it wasn’t easy. I couldn’t really follow the pace of the car in front of me. However, an important lesson learnt today was how to manage a set of tyres to make it last for two stints.“

Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid #20
Timo Bernhard
“Right at the start I got squeezed a bit in the pack but I could overtake an Audi and a Toyota on lap one to improve from fifth to third. Then suddenly the car felt strange and I pitted straight away. This was after nine laps. We fixed it and I did a 50 lap double stint with one set of tyres which wasn’t easy. Unfortunately later we had more problems with our car.”

Brendon Hartley
“The first few laps from Timo were really good but then we have had a couple of technical issues today. I think the team has managed the repairs very well as the car never spent too much time in the garage.”

Mark Webber
“Despite the problems we had with our car we never gave up fighting and got the most out of it. The car runs well now but we could not exploit its full potential. The team works really hard and we are learning very quickly. Our speed is encouraging. We now have to solve the teething problems which are normal for such a new project. We knew we would be better here than in Silverstone. There we weren’t competitive. But here we were.”

Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President
“I am proud of the whole team for our effort today. To see TOYOTA Racing leading the Manufacturers’ World Championship is very satisfying and it gives us big motivation for the challenge ahead at Le Mans. It was nice to see such a big crowd today and I think we gave them an entertaining race. It’s hard for the team and drivers because we have to give absolutely everything to get the best result; so well done to everyone for that performance. Now we have a demanding period ahead as we prepare for Le Mans. As we have seen many times, Le Mans is a unique race and many things can happen. We will be working flat out to get ready and give ourselves the best possible chance.”  

TS040 HYBRID #7 
Alex Wurz
“It was an interesting race. I wish we could have done another one-two; it was very close but a few little details stopped that happening. For me personally the race was quite eventful. It was not easy, not straightforward. Occasionally we had the pace but generally our car was very nervous so we couldn’t push as hard as the sister car. But nevertheless we scored points so as a team we extended our lead in the World Championship and that is cool.”   

Stéphane Sarrazin
“Finishing first and third is very good for the team and it continues our strong start to the season. The #8 guys were really quick; they did a brilliant job. But we struggled to find the right balance and suffered a bit from oversteer. It was difficult to get the most out of the car. I tried to push and I got close at times but the priority was to get the points and we couldn’t quite get second. Now we have to prepare for Le Mans, where anything can happen.” 

Kazuki Nakajima
“The team did a good job and to have two cars on the podium is a nice reward. So I am happy for the team who worked really hard to give us a competitive car. Maybe we could have got second but we didn’t quite have enough performance today. We tried to go for a double stint on the tyres during my stint, which was the same as the cars around us. It was a bit of a risk and I lost some grip; it was quite tricky. Now we concentrate on the next race, which is the big one for us.” 

Anthony Davidson
“This season is the first time I have ever led a World Championship. To win again here for one of the team’s home races, with a lot of support from the guys from Cologne, was fantastic. Sébastien did a lot of the hard work in the difficult middle part of the race so when I got in it was pretty much job done. It’s great we got two cars on to the podium again. Now our attention has to turn to the big one in June. I am so confident in the package we have and the team around us; it really feels like we are flourishing at the right time.” 

Nicolas Lapierre
“It was a great result for the whole team. Since the beginning of the weekend we did everything well; in qualifying we extracted everything we could and during the race we stayed calm. It was a very tough race with Porsche. We took the lead on the pit stop so I want to say thank you to the mechanics. Sébastien and Anthony drove very well so we could extend the gap. At the end it was more under control so we just had to get to the flag safely. We have seen here that our Le Mans package is working well and the hybrid system was wonderful. We are very happy with this result; it is the best way to get ready for Le Mans.”  

Sébastien Buemi
“I am really happy with today’s race. It is our third win on the trot after our victory at the end of 2013 in Bahrain and then earlier this season at Silverstone. The race was hard. When I jumped in the car I could start to close the gap to the leader and when we took the lead we had to push hard to make a gap. But when the #14 Porsche had some trouble we knew we were in control; we just had to make sure we didn’t make any mistakes. When you win the first two races of the season, it is perfect preparation for Le Mans. But we have to focus on getting the basics right. We have better preparation than last year so we’ll see what we that brings.”

Race results

1 Buemi/Davidson/Lapierre (Toyota) 171 laps in 6h 01m 31.675s
2 Di Grassi/Duval/Kristensen (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) + 1m 13.926s
3 Nakajima/Sarrazin/Wurz (Toyota) + 1m 20.861s
4 Dumas/Jani/Lieb (Porsche) – 1 lap
5 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) – 1 lap
6 Albuquerque/Bonanomi (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) – 2 laps
7 Beche/Heidfeld/Prost (Rebellion-Toyota) – 10 laps
8 Canal/Pla/Rusinov (Morgan-Nissan) – 11 laps
9 Dolan/Gené/Tincknell (Zytek-Nissan) – 11 laps
10 Bradley/Howson/Imperatori (Oreca-Nissan) – 12 laps
23 Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (D/NZ/AUS), Porsche 919 Hybrid - 23 laps

Images Michel Tange ... www.MTange.nl