Porsche gives Audi a race to the fin­ish in six hours at Sil­ver­stone

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

AUDI Sport man­aged a dream start of the 2015 mo­tor­sport year, beat­ing off Porche and Toy­ota in the sea­son opener of the FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship (WEC) at Sil­ver­stone.

The Audi R18 e-tron qu­at­tro of Mar­cel Fässler, An­dré Lot­terer and Benoît Tréluyer took victory af­ter a thrilling six-hour race in which the lead kept chang­ing and was fiercely con­tested.

Toy­ota Rac­ing opened its 2015 World En­durance Cham­pi­onship ac­count with third and fourth places in a hotly con­tested Six Hours of Sil­ver­stone on Sun­day.

The 2014 World Cham­pi­ons faced tougher com­pe­ti­tion than in last year’s race, where they raced to a one-two victory, but with both cars mak­ing the top four the scene is set for an ex­cit­ing sea­son ahead.

The No1 TS040 Hy­brid of An­thony David­son (GB), Sébastien Buemi (CH) and Kazuki Naka­jima (J) was in con­tention for a race win through­out, but was ul­ti­mately placed third be­hind the win­ning Audi. The No 2 car of Alex Wurz (A), Stéphane Sar­razin (F) and Mike Con­way (GB) put in a sim­i­larly bat­tling per­for­mance to fin­ish fourth, adding to a sat­is­fy­ing points haul for the team.

The Porsche flashed home just over 4,61 sec­onds later, fol­lowed by the two Toy­otas and an­other eTron in fifth place, fol­low­ing two un­sched­uled pit stops.

The driv­ers fought a three-way battle with nu­mer­ous over­tak­ing ma­noeu­vres and door-to-door fight­ing for po­si­tions from al­most start to fin­ish.

“Con­grat­u­la­tions to Mar­cel, An­dré and Ben, who de­liv­ered fan­tas­tic mo­tor­sport for six hours to­day,” said head of Audi Mo­tor­sport Dr Wolf­gang Ull­rich. “This victory is a dream start of the sea­son and a great re­ward for the whole squad for the hard work last win­ter. At the same time, this suc­cess mo­ti­vates us even more for the great chal­lenges await­ing us the next few weeks. The week­end at Sil­ver­stone has also shown that we could be fac­ing what may be the most thrilling and fiercely con­tested WEC sea­son ever.”

Not all vor­sprung

At the be­gin­ning, events in the race did not seem to au­gur well for car num­ber “7”. As the cor­rect gear could not im­me­di­ately be en­gaged, Benoît Tréluyer, who had started from po­si­tion five, lost a lot of ground and had to battle his way for­wards again through half of the field on the first laps.

Af­ter two-and-a-half hours, An­dré Lot­terer took over driv­ing du­ties from Mar­cel Fässler and 30 min­utes later, the lead in the race.

“A per­fect day for Audi and for our team,” said Lot­terer.

“We were un­der pres­sure from the first to the last lap and could not af­ford to slip. We man­aged to do this and the team did ev­ery­thing right at the pit stops and with the per­fect strat­egy. Now, we’re go­ing to take this mo­men­tum with us to Spa and to Le Mans.”

The grip­ping duel be­tween Mar­cel Fässler and Porsche driver Neel Jani across many laps in which the two Swiss over­took each other sev­eral times per lap, was par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive.

For the num­ber “8” sis­ter car, a top re­sult seemed to be within reach as well.

But two re­pair stops in which the rear body­work had to be re­placed fol­low­ing con­tact with a ri­val and the fix­ings of the front hood sub­se­quently had to be fas­tened, cost Lu­cas di Grassi, Loïc Du­val and Oliver Jarvis about seven min­utes and, as a re­sult, all chances of clinch­ing a podium place.

Af­ter start­ing from the sec­ond row, the Brazil­ian-French-Bri­tish trio had to set­tle for fifth place. “We have pos­i­tive im­pres­sions: a thrilling race and the first victory for our new R18 e-tron qu­at­tro — this whets our ap­petite for the WEC sea­son.”

Fans will not have to wait long for the next ap­pear­ance of the Audi R18 e-tron qu­at­tro.

In just three weeks from now (May 2) round two of the FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship will be held at Spa-Fran­cor­champs (B).

For Audi, the race on the fa­mous cir­cuit in the Ar­dennes marks a “dress re­hearsal” for the sea­son’s pin­na­cle event, the Le Mans 24 Hours.

To pre­pare for Le Mans, Audi Sport Team Joest will be field­ing the third hy­brid sports car, des­ig­nated as num­ber “9”, that will be driven by Filipe Al­bu­querque (P), Marco Bo­nanomi (I) and René Rast (D). — WR.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

The Audi R18 e-tron qu­at­tro of Mar­cel Fässler, An­dré Lot­terer and Benoît Tréluyer took victory af­ter a thrilling six-hour race at Sil­ver­stone last Sun­day.

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