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.

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

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.


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