World Endurance Champs
Silverstone this year presents the racers with an unusual combination of turns and gear changes, and, again, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro looks like the one to beat.
INGOLSTADT — The 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) starts on Sunday at Silverstone in the UK, with two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars ready to reclaim the title the marque won in 2012 and 2013.
Six drivers in Audi Sport Team Joest will race the new hybrid sports car, which has seen some 10 000 test kilometres, and a brief run out in the official FIA WEC Prologue on the last weekend in March.
This race saw a Nissan GT-R flip and summersault over a fence, where it landed on spectators, killing one and injuring several. That race was stopped.
Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich said the Prologue at Le Castellet did allow Audi to see its opponents in action for the first time this season. “Everyone is thoroughly prepared — even though nobody put their cards on the table there. Our aim is to win again at Silverstone, like we did in 2012 and 2013.”
There, the spectators witnessed the racing premiere of a new generation of the Audi hybrid sports car. The combination of a V6 TDI engine with e-tron quattro hybrid drive is more powerful and more efficient than ever before.
The two-fold amount of energy — four megajoules — is available in the electric drive system while the diesel engine delivers an output of more than 410 kW. Combined with clearly improved aerodynamics and new developments in the chassis, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro runs faster than before but uses even less fuel.
Plenty of diversity is awaiting the drivers at Silverstone. The circuit on the former airfield used to be famous for its high speeds. Now, numerous narrow sections complement the track configuration, resulting in an unusual combination that forces the engineers to make compromises in setting up the cars.
A comparison: The R18 e-tron quattro runs through turn four called “The Loop” in first gear at a little less than 80 km/h, whereas it achieves more than 270 km/h in the “Maggots” section in seventh gear. The drivers have to shift up into a higher gear 18 times and downshift again 18 times per lap — which amounts to 36 gear changes around the 5 891-kilometre track.
The 2012 Silverstone winners, Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer, will be entering the race in car number 7 on Sunday at 12 pm local time.
They have won the Le Mans 24 Hours three times and were World Endurance Champions in 2012.
A year later, Loïc Duval decided this title in his favour together with his then team-mates Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish.
He is sharing car number 8 at Audi with Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis, who will be competing in his home round at Silverstone.
Jarvis lives in Burwell just 130 kilometres away from the race track and is contesting his first full FIA WEC season.
In the season opener, Audi will be racing in an important growth market.
With approximately 158 800 deliveries, the company recorded an 11,8% increase in sales in the United Kingdom compared with the previous year. In the past 10 years, the brand even doubled its deliveries there.
Within Europe, the United Kingdom is Audi’s second-largest market following the German domestic market.
In total, Audi’s LMP race cars have clinched five victories at Silverstone, two in the FIA WEC and three in other sports car racing series between 2004 and 2008. In addition to the WEC victory — accounting for 24 points in the Championship — the race this year will be about winning the Tourist Trophy as well.
The British motorsport trophy has been awarded since 1905.