Hard fought Audi win at WEC Spa

Spa action (Photo by Melissa Warren)The no7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler took their second victory from two starts in 2015

with a hard fought win at the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps that had the large Belgian crowd on the edge of their seats.

In his last stint Treluyer had to fight Neel Jani in the no18 Porsche 919 all the way to the chequered flag, with the two cars going wheel to wheel, and a late stop for fuel left the French driver just 13 seconds ahead of the Porsche with 15-minutes on the clock. The run to the flag was nail biting but the no7 Audi crossed the finish line with fireworks exploding above the track to the delight of the German team.

After taking 1-2-3 in qualifying the Porsche Team held the upper hand in the first half of the race but they didn’t have it all their own way as first the no19 919 of Nick Tandy had to go back to the garage early in the race after a collision with the no91 Porsche 911 of Kevin Estre. The collision, which earned Estre a penalty, caused some serious body work damage to the 919 but the Porsche mechanics replaced the damaged parts and had the car back on track in less than four minutes.

The pole sitting no17 Porsche 919 of Brendon Hartley led from the start but was given a stop go penalty for using a run off area near to a group of marshals after he out braked into the last corner. The car then had to go into the garage after a problem with the rear suspension was diagnosed, losing the car a lap on the leaders. Hartley and his teammates Timo Bernhard and Mark Webber fought back and were rewarded with third place on the podium 1 lap down, with Hartley setting a new lap record for the WEC at Spa with a 1m57.972 lap, 3.2 seconds quicker than the previous best time.

The no2 TS040 of Stephane Sarrazin, Alex Wurz and Mike Conway had an early battle with the no9 Audi R18 and eventually finished three laps behind the leaders in 5th. The no1 Toyota of Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi, which had been rebuilt after the accident in free practice, hit problems with a sticking throttle and had to return to the pits several times. The reigning world champions eventually finished 8th, 14 laps down.

The no8 Audi of Oliver Jarvis, Loic Duval and Lucas Di Grassi also had an electrical problem that saw the car in the garage for several laps, the problem eventually being solved by a new ECU. In the last few laps Jarvis ended up in the tyre wall at Turn 14 after going straight on. The British driver managed to get the car to the flag to be classified in 7th overall.

The sole LMP1 privateer entry, the no4 Team Bykolles CLM P1/01-AER, completed 46 laps before hitting technical issues which side lined the Austrian team for the second race in a row.

Spa action (Photo by Melissa Warren) Spa action (Photo by Melissa Warren) Spa action (Photo by Melissa Warren) Spa action (Photo by Melissa Warren) Spa action (Photo by Melissa Warren) Spa action (Photo by Melissa Warren) Spa action (Photo by Melissa Warren) Spa action (Photo by Melissa Warren)

In LMP2 a jump start by the no38 JOTA Sport Gibson-Nissan of Harry Tincknell ended in a drive through penalty for the Englishman but also set up a brilliant fight back drive that everyone on the edge of their seats.

The no26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan, which won the opening at Silverstone, was leading the class, while Tincknell and then Mitch Evans who took over the driver duties, moved up through the field to take the lead on the run into the final corner. Evans handed the car over to Simon Dolan before Tincknell took the car to the chequered flag to record the teams 4th WEC podium finish at Spa and the second win for the European Le Mans Series front runners and reigning LMP2 24 Hours of Le Mans champions.

The no26 G-Drive Ligier was on the same lap as the JOTA Gibson but suddenly the Ligier slowed with smoke coming from the engine bay. The car was recovered to the pits by Sam Bird and it came out to take the chequered flag to be classified in 10th place. However there was some joy in the G-Drive pit when the no28 Ligier of Pippo Dirani, Ricardo Gonzalez and Gustavo Yacaman scored another second place finish to add to the one they scored in Silverstone.

The no43 Team Sard Morand Morgan Evo took the final podium place on the team’s WEC debut with Pierre Ragues, Oliver Webb and Zoel Amberg taking the chequered flag 2 laps behind the JOTA Sport Gibson and 17 seconds ahead of the no47 KCMG Oreca-Nissan of Matt Howson, Richard Bradley and Nicolas Lapierre, which had started from the pitlane with a 30-second penalty after being excluded from qualifying after failing technical scrutineering.

The Signatech Alpine was 5th in class, ahead of the no42 Strakka Racing Dome, the no35 Oak Racing Ligier and the two Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligiers, which were making their debut at Spa and suffered a few technical issues during the race.

In LMGTE Pro, a race-long fight raged between the leading contenders, who were rarely more than twenty seconds apart throughout the whole six-hour race.

The #99 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Fernando Rees, Alex MacDowell and Richie Stanaway took their first WEC win and headed home the #92 Porsche Team Manthey entered Porsche 911 RSR driven by Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiecki.

Rees took the chequered flag 24.491s ahead of the Porsche but the final stint had been a stressful affair for the Brazilian, as he soaked up significant pressure from reigning GT champion Gianmaria Bruni in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia.

That pressure subsided when the Ferrari was given a one-minute stop and go penalty for a pit stop infraction. A dropped tyre at the final stop ultimately cost the AF Corse team a second consecutive win this season and the Italian a third consecutive victory at Spa. The penalty dropped Bruni and Vilander back to fourth position in class.

Rees drove perhaps the race of his career so far with some excellent early race stints to ensure the platform was built for today’s victory. Richie Stanaway then increased the lead before Alex MacDowell completed a single stint, handing back over to Rees for the final hour.

“We played our strategy by ear,” said Richie Stanaway. “We had done some analysis of our race at Silverstone and had understood where we had lost time. Our pit stops were perfect. Ferrari did a mistake that is also what we needed to win this race”

A second place for Porsche Team Manthey had looked unlikely going in to the final hour when Richard Lietz was given a penalty for abusing track limits. He and Frederic Makowiecki fought back tenaciously to secure runners-up points finishing ahead of their team mates Kevin Estre and Sven Muller in the sister #91 Porsche 911 RSR.

The #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda claimed a second consecutive victory in what marked a perfect start to the season for the trio. They have now taken maximum points at each of the first two rounds and today marked a remarkable fifth win from the last seven WEC events.

It was not an entirely straightforward race for the #98 car as its pace dropped off as the track rubbered in, particularly in the later stages. Pedro Lamy began the race on an old set of Michelins but still opened up a small gap to the opposition. Paul Dalla Lana and then Mathias Lauda drove impressive stints, despite a spin at the final chicane for the Canadian.

“It was a strange race in some respects as everyone seemed to be on different strategies,” said Dalla Lana, who finished the race. “It is nice to start the season off with two maximum scores and these guys next to me (Lamy and Lauda) have been fantastic. It is always a thrill to win with Aston Martin and I am a very happy man this evening.”

The #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 led most of the race and was able to see off the challenge of the second placed #83 AF Corse Ferrari of Emmanuel Collard, Rui Aguas and Francois Perrodo in the final hour. The Ferrari 458 Italia had a relatively trouble-free run to the flag to claim another second place to add to their Silverstone runners-up position.

In the second hour of the event Larbre Competition took a turn at the front after Kristian Poulsen fought his way into the lead in the #50 Chevrolet Corvette C7. This was short lived as he had contact with one of the G-Drive Ligier-Nissan LMP2 cars and the resulting impact with the tyre barrier at the Paul Frere corner led to the French squad’s retirement from the race.

Third place went to the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia driven by Aleksey Basov, Andrea Bertolini and Victor Shayter. The Russian-entered car enjoyed a competitive race throughout the six hours and led with Shayter at the wheel during the second hour.

1 7 Audi Sport Team Joest FÄSSLER / LOTTERER / TRÉLUYER Audi R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 – H M 176 6:01’08.896 7 49 1’57.996 213.7
2 18 Porsche Team DUMAS / JANI / LIEB Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 – H M 176 6:01’22.320 13.424 13.424 7 3 1’58.025 213.6
3 17 Porsche Team BERNHARD / WEBBER / HARTLEY Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 – H M 175 6:02’07.087 1 Laps 1 Laps 8 5 1’57.972 213.7
4 9 Audi Sport Team Joest ALBUQUERQUE / BONANOMI / RAST Audi R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 – H M 174 6:02’54.347 2 Laps 1 Laps 7 90 1’59.797 210.5
5 2 Toyota Racing WURZ / SARRAZIN / CONWAY Toyota TS 040 – Hybrid LMP1 – H M 173 6:01’11.616 3 Laps 1 Laps 7 2 2’00.170 209.8
6 19 Porsche Team HÜLKENBERG / BAMBER / TANDY Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 – H M 173 6:02’03.416 3 Laps 51.800 7 5 1’58.052 213.6
7 8 Audi Sport Team Joest DI GRASSI / DUVAL / JARVIS Audi R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 – H M 168 6:03’26.476 8 Laps 5 Laps 7 106 1’58.077 213.5
8 1 Toyota Racing DAVIDSON / BUEMI Toyota TS 040 – Hybrid LMP1 – H M 162 6:02’05.589 14 Laps 6 Laps 9 136 1’59.528 210.9
9 38 Jota Sport DOLAN / EVANS / TINCKNELL Gibson 015S – Nissan LMP2 D 161 6:03’19.779 15 Laps 1 Laps 8 139 2’09.364 194.9
10 28 G-Drive Racing YACAMAN / DERANI / GONZALEZ Ligier JS P2 – Nissan LMP2 D 160 6:02’46.418 16 Laps 1 Laps 7 4 2’10.709 192.9
11 43 Team Sard Morand RAGUES / WEBB / AMBERG Morgan Evo – SARD LMP2 D 159 6:01’33.547 17 Laps 1 Laps 7 4 2’10.113 193.8
12 47 KCMG HOWSON / BRADLEY / LAPIERRE Oreca 05 – Nissan LMP2 D 159 6:01’51.235 17 Laps 17.688 7 2 2’09.633 194.5
13 36 Signatech Alpine PANCIATICI / CHATIN / CAPILLAIRE Alpine A450b – Nissan LMP2 D 159 6:02’29.772 17 Laps 38.537 7 4 2’10.587 193.1
14 42 Strakka Racing LEVENTIS / WATTS / KANE Strakka Dome S103 – Nissan LMP2 M 156 6:02’04.850 20 Laps 3 Laps 7 3 2’12.246 190.7
15 35 Oak Racing NICOLET / MERLIN / MARIS Ligier JS P2 – Nissan LMP2 D 152 6:03’10.315 24 Laps 4 Laps 7 13 2’14.763 187.1
16 99 Aston Martin Racing V8 MACDOWALL / REES / STANAWAY Aston Martin Vantage V8 LMGTE Pro M 151 6:02’17.759 25 Laps 1 Laps 5 128 2’19.189 181.2
17 92 Porsche Team Manthey MAKOWIECKI / LIETZ Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE Pro M 151 6:02’47.250 25 Laps 29.491 6 54 2’18.963 181.4
18 91 Porsche Team Manthey MÜLLER / ESTRE Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE Pro M 151 6:03’15.238 25 Laps 27.988 7 2 2’19.229 181.1
19 51 AF Corse BRUNI / VILANDER Ferrari F458 Italia LMGTE Pro M 151 6:03’30.834 25 Laps 15.596 6 129 2’19.178 181.2
20 97 Aston Martin Racing TURNER / MÜCKE / BELL Aston Martin Vantage V8 LMGTE Pro M 150 6:01’14.679 26 Laps 1 Laps 6 2 2’18.774 181.7
21 95 Aston Martin Racing NYGAARD / SØRENSEN / Aston Martin Vantage V8 LMGTE Pro M 150 6:01’34.962 26 Laps 20.283 5 3 2’19.626 180.6
22 71 AF Corse RIGON / CALADO Ferrari F458 Italia LMGTE Pro M 150 6:02’18.707 26 Laps 43.745 6 53 2’19.504 180.7
23 31 Extreme Speed Motorsports BROWN / VAN OVERBEEK / FOGARTY Ligier JS P2 – HPD LMP2 D 149 6:01’48.706 27 Laps 1 Laps 7 97 2’12.273 190.6
24 98 Aston Martin Racing DALLA LANA / LAMY / LAUDA Aston Martin Vantage V8 LMGTE Am M 148 6:01’18.543 28 Laps 1 Laps 5 128 2’20.317 179.7
25 83 AF Corse PERRODO / COLLARD / AGUAS Ferrari F458 Italia LMGTE Am M 148 6:03’03.801 28 Laps 1’45.258 5 127 2’21.526 178.2
26 72 SMP Racing SHAYTAR / BERTOLINI / BASOV Ferrari F458 Italia LMGTE Am M 147 6:01’31.282 29 Laps 1 Laps 5 125 2’20.311 179.7
27 88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing RIED / AL QUBAISI / BACHLER Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE Am M 146 6:01’32.774 30 Laps 1 Laps 5 4 2’21.095 178.7
28 77 Dempsey – Proton Racing DEMPSEY / LONG / SEEFRIED Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE Am M 145 6:01’15.583 31 Laps 1 Laps 6 102 2’21.750 177.9
29 96 Aston Martin Racing CASTELLACCI / GOETHE / HALL Aston Martin Vantage V8 LMGTE Am M 138 6:03’04.420 38 Laps 7 Laps 9 68 2’21.927 177.7
30 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports SHARP / DALZIEL / HEINEMEIER-HANSSON Ligier JS P2 – HPD LMP2 D 134 6:02’06.483 42 Laps 4 Laps 12 65 2’11.633 191.5
31 26 G-Drive Racing RUSINOV / CANAL / BIRD Ligier JS P2 – Nissan LMP2 D 124 6:02’01.449 52 Laps 10 Laps 7 3 2’09.399 194.9

Not classified
55 AF Corse CAMERON / GRIFFIN / MORTIMER Ferrari F458 Italia LMGTE Am M 128 5:32’51.431 7 4 2’20.857 179.0
50 Larbre Competition RODA / RUBERTI / POULSEN Chevrolet Corvette C7 LMGTE Am M 61 2:28’33.320 2 4 2’21.056 178.8
4 Team Bykolles TRUMMER / LIUZZI / KLIEN CLM P1/01 – AER LMP1 M 46 1:49’24.427 4 4 2’09.137 195.3  By Melissa Warren 

Written by