Story by Tim Hailey with photos and material from Toyota and Audi
Toyota leads as 6 hours get underway at the amazing Shanghai circuit
Toyota Racing claimed its second consecutive FIA World Endurance Championship win with a lights-to-flag victory in the Six Hours of Shanghai, China. After winning the previous round at Fuji Speedway, the #7 TS030 Hybrid of Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre started from pole at China and won by 58.570secs.
The rolling start was unexpectedly the first action of the day as morning warm-up was cancelled after misty conditions in Shanghai prevented the medical helicopter reaching the circuit. Lapierre was at the wheel for the start and led into turn one before rapidly stretching his advantage with a clear track in front of him, consistently pulling away throughout his double stint. He handed over a half-minute lead to Alex who kept up the relentless speed, maintaining the strategy of fitting new tires at each stop to maximize the TS030 Hybrids pace and seize control of the race by the half-distance mark. Both drivers completed further double stints each, with Alex crossing the flag to take victory and secure a winning end to Toyota Racing’s very first season of competition. Today’s win also marks the first time a Toyota team has recorded consecutive victories in an FIA World Championship event since 1994, in the World Rally Championship.
“It was a good race for us and a 100% perfect race weekend,” said Wurz. “From Friday onwards every step we have taken has been correct. That was the absolute maximum and it was good enough to win. Maybe it looked easy on TV but Nicolas and I gave it everything. These races are never simple but we were very determined to win this race for Toyota and give everyone extra motivation over the winter. I really enjoyed it today and I couldn’t wish for a better teammate, although of course we missed Kazuki this weekend. It has been a terrific season for us. At the beginning we had some emotional and performance ups and downs but we improved every day and with every step. That is what counts and that’s why we ended the season as race winners.”
Toyota leads as booming, polluted Shanghai looms in the distance
“We had a really good weekend,” agreed Lapierre. “After first practice we have been fastest in all sessions. The car was great and we pushed throughout the race. Everyone at Toyota Racing did a fantastic job today. It has been a pleasure to be part of this team and a pleasure to share the drive with Alex, and also Kazuki when he has been with us. Everything has got better and better as the season has gone on. At the beginning we had a new car, new engine, new hybrid system and new team from all over the world. It could have been difficult but it has been a great team effort and we have had a superb second half of the season. The pace we have shown is very encouraging for next year but we will have to work very hard this winter because Audi will try to respond, that’s for sure.”
“Today has been a great performance from the whole team, with the right strategy, some excellent pit stops and fantastic drives from Alex and Nicolas,” said Toyota Technical Director Pascal Vasselon. At the end of a rewarding season, I would like to thank all involved for their tremendous effort. Three wins and three pole positions in our first season exceeds our expectations so we can be very satisfied. We have enjoyed this first season, particularly the close competition with Audi. Congratulations to Andre Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer on winning the drivers’ title; both Audis have been formidable opponents and we look forward to battling again next season. Finally, congratulations to Rebellion Racing on their impressive season; they thoroughly deserved to win the LMP1 private teams’ title as well as Petit Le Mans; TMG is proud to supply their Toyota engine.”
A remarkable debut season has delivered three victories in six races as well as three pole positions and four fastest laps to highlight the impressive performance of the TS030 Hybrid and its innovative Toyota Hybrid System – Racing. Maximum points from the weekend elevated Alex and Nicolas to third place in the drivers’ world championship, despite only contesting six of the eight rounds. The Toyota hybrid system, using unique super capacitor energy storage technology, is charged in four designated hybrid recovery zones at the Shanghai International Circuit before delivering a 300hp power boost.
Audi e-tron quattro
But the veteran Audi team had been out of championship reach by its competitors since August. At the finale at Shanghai, the Audi factory drivers Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer, who finished in third place, won the Drivers’ World Championship as well – subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA. The second title crowns a successful debut season of the first hybrid sports car from Audi.
Five times, Audi secured the top spot on the grid and on five occasions in eight events, an Audi R18 achieved overall victory—including the brand’s eleventh success at the Le Mans 24 Hours where the Audi R18 e-tron quattro clinched the first ever victory of a hybrid sports car in this classic endurance event.
An intensive duel with Toyota marked the second half of the season – including the finale in China. The new World Champions in the number “1” hybrid sports car only had to take third place at the Shanghai 6 Hours to win the title. Second place in the championship goes to an Audi squad as well. Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish, who had started from the front row in China, finished the race as the runners-up behind the Toyota of Nicolas Lapierre/Alexander Wurz. The Danish-Scottish duo’s track record this season reflects seven podium positions, including victory at the season opener, the Sebring 12 Hours, together with Dindo Capello. In addition, they were the most efficient combination in the field. At seven of the season’s eight rounds, the Michelin Green X Challenge Award went to car number “2.”
“Now we’ve won all the titles,” said Ralf Jüttner, Technical Director of Audi Sport Team Joest. “Well done to Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer. Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish came back with a strong showing in China even though it wasn’t enough for victory. Both squads performed flawless pit stops at the end of a tough season. The WEC is a fantastic new championship and we’re the first to have won it.”
“It’s nice that after the Manufacturers’ World Championship we were able to decide the Drivers’ World Championship in our favor as well,” said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish the year with a victory in China. We’ve got very strong competitors, which provides us with high motivation to work hard for next year.”
“This track suited our Japanese competitors particularly well,” noted Kristensen. “Congratulations to them on winning the race! At the same time, I’m happy about a good race by Allan, our team and me. There were two reasons why we didn’t have a chance of achieving the title win. Our rivals in the battle for the title were driving an Audi as well, and these cars simply don’t fail. Marcel, André and Ben truly deserve the title with their performances.”
“Second place was the best we could achieve today,” agreed McNish. “We squeezed the maximum out of the car and the tires but Toyota was simply quicker. Congratulations to Marcel, André and Ben on winning the World Champion’s title. They were incredibly good. We compete against each other but work together as a team.”
“I’d like to thank Audi very much because without this brand I could have never experienced a success like this,” said Fässler. “I’ve got tremendous teammates and a top-flight team. The title means incredibly much to me. It’s a great feeling to be World Champion.”
“Winning Le Mans and the World Champion’s title together is simply brilliant,” agreed Lotterer. “And I’m happy to be able to share this success with Marcel and Ben. The three of us are really good friends. A huge thank you goes to Audi and to our team. Our car was always superb. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to take victory today but after winning the title we can be very pleased.”
“I’m more than happy after this great season,” finished Tréluyer. “The World Champion’s title is a nice chapter in a driver’s biography. I want to thank Audi very much for the good season.”
The title win with the R18 e-tron quatto in China completes a unique endurance racing season for Audi. With the R8 LMS GT3 sports car, Audi decided the Bathurst 12 Hours and the 24-hour races at the Nürburgring, Spa and Zolder in its favor this year.
1 Wurz/Lapierre (Toyota) 191 laps
2 Kristensen/McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) + 58.570s
3 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) + 1m 42.814s
4 Belicchi/Cheng/Primat (Lola-Toyota) – 6 laps
5 Brabham/Chandhok/Dumbreck (HPD-Honda) – 6 laps
6 Kane/Leventis/Watts (HPD-Honda) – 9 laps
7 Martin/Graves/Beche (Oreca-Nissan) – 11 laps
8 Dalziel/Potolicchio/Sarrazin (HPD-Honda) – 11 laps
9 Lahaye/Nicolet/Pla (Morgan-Nissan) – 12 laps
10 Kaffer/Minassian/Perez Companc (Oreca-Nissan) – 12 laps