story by Tim Hailey with material from Audi and Toyota
Audi at Eau Rouge
Audi threw down a flawless second race weekend in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Spa. Audi started from the top three positions with the R18 e-tron quattro and after the six hours of racing mounted the podium with all three driver teams. Audi won the Belgian WEC round a year ago as well.
Maximum efficiency: With positions one, two and three in qualifying and the race, the three Audi hybrid sports cars achieved the best possible result. In the competition of the hybrid vehicles, Audi celebrated a victory against Toyota for the second time in succession this year. In the season opener at Silverstone, the race cars from Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm managed a one-two win three weeks ago.
Anthony Davidson, Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi, driving the #8 2012-specification Toyota TS030 HYBRID, drove a strong race to finish fourth. However, the team’s updated 2013 car, in the hands of #7 crew Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima, did not finish after a competitive debut race in which it fought at the front. Soon after half distance, the TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing stopped recovering energy and, as a consequence, the #7 suffered overheating rear brakes.
The TS030 HYBRID combines regenerative braking with traditional hydraulic braking and both elements are needed for normal operation. Therefore the team had to retire the #7 from the race.
Earlier, Nicolas had started in fourth with Sébastien fifth, but both quickly showed their determination during an action-packed opening.Nicolas established the #7 as a contender for victory with some exciting wheel-to-wheel racing against the Audis, while Sébastien was running well in fifth.
When the first driver changes came around, Stéphane took over from Sébastien in the #8 while Nicolas’ thrilling race ended when he handed the #7 over to Kazuki. At half distance TOYOTA Racing was looking set for a good result, fighting closely with the Audis as different tyre and fuel strategies played out. Anthony took the wheel of the #8 but soon after Kazuki pulled into the pits to retire the #7. That meant Alex did not take part in the race.
The #8 kept up the challenge for a podium and Sébastien took on the fight. A late incident with a slower car caused damage which hindered performance but he brought the 2012 car home to the chequered flag in its final race.
On the way to their first WEC victory of the season, the World Champion Audi drivers Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Treluyer (CH/D/F) delivered a strong performance. The trio crossed the finish line with an advantage of 1m 05s after having suffered misfortune on the roller-coaster in the Ardennes at the beginning of the race. In the second hour of the race, a piece of debris damaged a tire and forced André Lotterer to make an early pit stop. From seventh place Benoît Tréluyer, who had taken over driving duties at the stop, battled to recover. 74 minutes later, car number one was running in front again.
The Silverstone winners Loïc Duval/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish (F/DK/GB) achieved second place. In the standings, the French-Danish-Scottish duo is trailing their fellow drivers in car number 1, who are taking an additional point home for having posted the best qualifying time in Belgium, by only one point.
A remarkable performance was achieved by Marc Gené/Lucas di Grassi/Oliver Jarvis (E/BR/GB). They shared the number 3 hybrid sports car, which has already been aerodynamically optimized for the upcoming run at Le Mans. With that, the car was not the optimum solution for the 7.004-kilometer circuit in the Ardennes but Audi is able to gain valuable findings from the data of both vehicle types. The lower downforce of the race car certainly did not make handling it in the many fast turns in Belgium any easier. Still, the Audi driver trio crossed the finish line in front of the best Toyota, car number 8.
The result in Belgium marked an amazing fourth endurance race victory for the brand this year. The success of the Audi R8 GRAND-AM in the GT class at the Daytona 24 Hours and victory at the Sebring 12 Hours with the Audi R18 e-tron quattro were followed by the two WEC wins. The next station on the calendar will be Le Mans on June 9 when Audi Sport Team Joest is going to prepare for the Le Mans 24 Hours on the official test day. On June 22 and 23, Audi will aim to achieve its twelfth victory at the classic endurance race.
1 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) 168 laps
2 Duval/Kristensen/McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) + 1m 05.815s
3 Gené/di Grassi/Jarvis (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) + 1m 54.992s
4 Buemi/Davidson/Sarrazin (Toyota) – 1 lap
5 Heidfeld/Jani/Prost (Lola-Toyota) – 3 laps
6 Beche/Belicchi/Cheng (Lola-Toyota) – 3 laps
7 Kane/Leventis/Watts (HPD-Honda) – 7 laps
8 Kaffer/Perez Companc/Minassian (Oreca-Nissan) – 11 laps
9 Brundle/Heinemeier-Hansson/Pla (Morgan-Nissan) – 11 laps
10 Dolan/Luhr/Turvey (Zytek-Nissan) – 11 laps
Audi Quotes after the race
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “The race at Spa was important for our preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours. That’s why we also fielded the third vehicle with an aerodynamics configuration that we’re probably going to use at Le Mans. While that was arguably not the optimum solution for Spa, it proved to be viable. The performances of all three cars were at a very high level throughout the race. We also saw that the competition made things pretty difficult for us. This battle was about tenths. We made no mistakes, the cars were running perfectly and the drivers were quick without taking excessive risks. The tires worked out really well too. The team performed optimal pit stops at which we gained time over the competition. But we know that Le Mans will be a very difficult race this time.”
Christopher Reinke (Overall Project Leader LMP): “We’re very happy because you should never expect such a result. We’re concentrating on Le Mans and, on the way, have achieved a nice victory at Spa. That’s a great relief. We tackled a great challenge because we put three race cars on the grid here for the first time. At the same time, Audi Sport is contesting the DTM season opener at Hockenheim as well.”
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “That was a superb team performance by the drivers and the squad. Up to the retirement of the number 7 Toyota it was also a very thrilling battle. The cars were running like clockwork, the pit stops and the strategy were all on the mark. It’s nice that all nine drivers mounted the podium. We’re traveling to Le Mans well prepared.”
Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): “A tremendous weekend. After our puncture we had to recover as much time as possible. Everybody gave everything. The guys in the pits did a fantastic job too. That was a super nice day for all of us.”
André Lotterer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): “What a race! The one-two-three win for Audi is fantastic. We had a lot of obstacles in the race. I didn’t have a good start but quickly managed to gain an advantage, but then we lost it again due to the safety car period and the puncture. After that, it was only full throttle for us. Marcel and Benoît drove brilliantly. We recovered the loss. It was one of the nicest victories because it was a hard-fought one. And I grew up in Belgium and won here for the first time.”
Benoît Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): “The victory is nice but achieving it was pretty difficult. We lost a lot of time due to the safety car period and the puncture. Afterward, all of us gave everything and that paid off. Our Audi R18 e-tron quattro was perfect. It’s a great result for the whole team that did a fantastic job.”
Loïc Duval (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): “Our race started well. I advanced and was able to build a bit of an advantage. Things were going well when the track was clear. But later, I experienced heavier traffic on track than ever before in my career. Others took big risks but when you’re leading you’re a bit more careful. We weren’t as quick as car number 1 and are going to analyze this based on our data. But it’s been a nice day for Audi.”
Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): “The one-two-three victory is fantastic for Audi. Everything was going according to plan, the whole team did a very good job. It’s great to have beaten Toyota – even though they had problems. Before Le Mans, we continue to have the greatest respect for them. As far as our team is concerned: Loïc and Allan delivered a strong drive. Unlike the winning car, we were struggling a bit with lack of tire grip. Marcel, André and Benoît drove really well and deserve this victory. We’re now almost equal to them in the points standings. The doubled points score for Le Mans will still be important in the battle for the title. It’ll continue to be thrilling.”
Allan McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): “The one-two-three win was great for the team. Furthermore, the new aero pack for car number 3 makes us confident for Le Mans. The car was pretty fast in qualifying and in the race. Unfortunately, for our driver squad, the result was a bit disappointing. We weren’t as quick as we’d been at Silverstone, so we’ve got to analyze where we lost time. In the points standings, we’re trailing our team-mates by just one point. Each of the two driver crews has achieved a victory and a second place. At Le Mans, Loïc, Tom and I want to be back on the top of the podium.”
Marc Gené (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3): “At the start, I had to get out of André Lotterer’s way and thus lost my starting position. The air pressure in my first set of tires was a bit high but the race was still good for us. It was clear that we wouldn’t be able to keep up with the cars of our team-mates. The whole team learned a lot today and we’re happy about having contributed our part to this.”
Lucas di Grassi (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3): “We competed with a different vehicle concept than the two cars with more downforce. In the end, we achieved a podium and thus a result that even surpassed our expectations a bit.”
Oliver Jarvis (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3): “Our race went as expected. In qualifying, we caused a surprise. We knew that the race would be difficult for us because the tires degraded more heavily. Third place is the best we could hope for. Congratulations to the winners who were strong today.”
Toyota Quotes after the race
TS030 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Kazuki Nakajima)
Race: Did not finish. Fastest lap: 2min 1.847secs
Nicolas Lapierre: “We are very disappointed by the final result because we were fighting for the win. Even if we are a little bit slower than them, I think it would have been close. The positive thing from today is the pace of the car, which was better than in qualifying. Considering we were using the Le Mans package, we are back in the game. Now we need to work and understand what happened so we are ready to fight in Le Mans.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “I think our race performance was more competitive than we imagined after qualifying. Until the problem things looked pretty good and we were fighting with the Audis. I had a good first stint but the second stint was a little difficult due to the traffic. As a preparation for Le Mans it’s better that this issue happened today rather than in the 24 Hours. I hope we can find the reason for that and avoid a repeat. Now we focus on Le Mans.”
TS030 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Stéphane Sarrazin, Sébastien Buemi)
Race: 4th, 167 laps (+1 lap), 7 pit stops. Fastest lap: 2min 2.052secs
Anthony Davidson: “It was pretty much what we expected considering we had the 2012 car. For my stint the car felt really good and the balance was nice; the grip was coming to us. We did the best possible job we could this weekend. It’s a shame we lost car #7. I didn’t know the car was out when I did my stint and I was surprised to see it in the garage when Sébastien took the wheel. That is probably the biggest disappointment of the day.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “The race was quite difficult for us. We were behind the Audis and a bit slower. We can explain that by the fact we have the 2012 car with high-downforce package and here, this is a bit too much downforce. We did our best and the team did a great job. We are fourth but it was a tight fight to be on the podium and we just missed it. It’s unfortunate for car #7 but the team will learn from that and be stronger at Le Mans.”
Sébastien Buemi: “We were pushing really hard and we had a chance to be on the podium, even though the 2012 car in high-downforce spec is not ideal for Spa. Then I was pushed on to the grass and against the barrier when I was lapping a slower car. It caused quite a lot of damage, which affected the car’s performance and prevented me pushing to the maximum in the last stint.”
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “We were in a real fight at the front with the #7 car and it was an exciting battle. So it was a disappointment to retire. We are still investigating exactly what caused the problem and it is a priority to address the root cause. The #8 crew did well to fight for the podium with the 2012-specification car but overall we expected more from this race than fourth. We will put all our energy into achieving better at Le Mans. Audi did a great job today, so congratulations to them. Their drivers fought fairly and it was a good show. In fact, the event overall has been impressive, with a big crowd and nice atmosphere showing the best of WEC.”