The sun shone on the Ardennes as World Champions André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler took their first win of the 2013 season by turning the tables on their teammates to lead an Audi 1-2-3 in front of 35,000 endurance race fans at the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
Marcel Fässler, Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1 said: “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 said: “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.”
It was also another victory in the LMP1 Privateer Class for the nr12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota of Neel Jani, Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost, while the victory in LMP2 went to the Pecom Racing Oreca Nissan of Nicolas Minassian, Pierre Kaffer and Luis Perez Companc in a nail biting final hour of the race.
At the start it was the nr2 Audi of Loic Duval which came through from the second row to take the lead at the first corner followed by the nr7 Toyota of Nicolas Lapierre. The Toyota was a strong contender for the first half of the race until a problem with the hybrid system caused the rear brakes to overheat forcing the brand new 2013 TS030 into retirement.
After the poor start to the race the nr1 Audi e-tron quattro was soon back at the front of the field with Andre Lotterer fighting with his teammates for the lead of the race. Despite a puncture that forced an unplanned pitstop, the world champions were able to maintain a good pace. After the demise of the nr7 Toyota, their main challenger was the nr2 Audi of Kristensen, McNish and Duval as the challenge from the nr3 ‘long tail’ R18 faded, as did the 2012 spec Toyota TS030.
In the final hour the three Audi were on the same lap but at the chequered flag the gap was a comfortable 65 seconds.
In LMP1 Privateer class the nr12 Rebellion Racing Lola Toyota proved once again to be the benchmark and Jani, Prost and Heidfeld were able to add a second 2013 victory trophy to their tally. The nr13 Lola finished 22 seconds behind their teammates after 6 hours of racing. Strakka Racing were also on the pace until a hit from behind from an LMP2 car at the final corner spun the car round, damaging the rear bodywork and forcing Danny Watts to come into the pits. The all British team eventually finished the race four laps behind the two Rebellions.
LMP2 lived up to expectations as a closely-fought battle from start to finish and it was, in the end, the No.49 Pecom Racing ORECA 03 Nissan which took their second FIA World Endurance Championship win, and their first in the WEC on Michelin rubber. They thoroughly deserved the victory, finishing 12.5 seconds ahead of their nearest rival despite suffering a late-race left front puncture which necessitated two pit stops – one for a new tyre and one for a new nose.
Luis Perez Companc, Pecom Racing, ORECA 03-Nissan #49 1st LMP2 said: “We were a little worried at the end but we thought the Zytek would need to pit again. We have a good team, good engineers, and they all worked well today. We knew as well, even before the start of the season, that we had a good car and that we would be in position to fight for podium finishes. In addition to the World Endurance Championship, our goal is to prepare for Le Mans, which is important for us. Aside from the tire puncture, the race was perfect.”
The driving crew of Pierre Kaffer, Nicolas Minassian and Luis Perez-Companc edged out the No.24 OAK Racing Morgan Nissan of Pla-Heinemeier Hansson-Brundle who took their second consecutive second place and therefore the lead of the LMP2 points standings. They pushed hard throughout but lost out to their rivals when the safety car came out at the end of the first hour.
Third in class was last year’s 6 Hours of Spa LMP2 class winner, and ELMS entrant, Jota Sport. The British team was using the event as a pre-Le Mans warm up and their No.38 Zytek Z11SN Nissan was employing the talents of Oliver Turvey, Simon Dolan and Lucas Luhr. The trio, like OAK Racing, challenged hard from start to finish but it was to be Pecom’s day in the Belgian sunshine. By Melissa Warren