Audi R18 Ultra denies e-tron Quattro debut victory at Spa
Audi locked out the top four positions in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday (5 May), round two of the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship, with Romain Dumas, Loic Duval and Marc Gene taking the victory by almost 47 seconds in their R18 Ultra.
While wet conditions at the start of the race favoured the power delivery of the new four-wheel drive Audi R18 e-tron Quattro hybrid cars, the conventional TDi Ultra of Dumas, Duval and Gene came through to win thanks to some star performances by each driver.
Gene, in his first race for Audi, pitted for slick Michelins at his first stop while the e-tron Quattros remained on intermediate tyres and it proved to be a key moment. Aided by a nose change for the hybrid car of Tom Kristensen, Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish, which dropped the No.2 Audi from the lead to third place, an outstanding stint mid-race by Duval helped seal the victory.
“Before the start I told my engineers we would try something different in tyre strategy from the other Audis”, said Gene, “We switched to the right tyres and it paid off quickly and I soon returned to the front. Loic [Duval] then passed the leaders and Roman [Dumas] extended our advantage. It was not easy, but everything worked fine.”
The e-tron Quattro of Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer finished in second class to mark a fine debut for the brand new machine with the two-driver R18 Ultra of Britain’s Oliver Jarvis and Italy’s Marco Bonanomi an excellent third.
Kristensen, Capello and McNish endured a torrid race with all manner of problems but still managed to finish in fourth, three laps clear of the Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota of Nick Heidfeld, Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost.
Strakka bounces back from practice smash to take impressive finish...
Michelin columnist Danny Watts, along with team-mates Nick Leventis and Jonny Kane, finished seventh overall in the Strakka Racing HPD ARX-03a, third in the Privateer class, thanks to excellent drives from all three. Most impressive was the unbelievably hard work of the Strakka mechanics who rebuilt the car following an unfortunate excursion in the opening free practice session.
“After the setback we suffered in free practice, it was great to bounce back and have a strong race.”, said Watts, “We had a good car underneath us, the pace was good and consistent, the Michelin tyres worked well and we’ve scored more points in the World Endurance Championship. I had no issues at all during my stint; no mistakes, no damage – I just kept going around and around as fast as I could!”
In the LM GTE Pro category, the Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 911 RSR of Richard Leitz and Marc Lieb earned the win by just 0.6 seconds at the flag from the AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia of Giancarlo Fisichella and Gianmaria Bruni. The Porsche 911 RSR of the Imsa Performance Matmut squad took the LM GTE Am spoils.
Audi’s Dumas and Duval head the overall WEC driver standings, tied on 43 points, just two ahead of Capello, Kristensen and McNish. Watts, Kane and Leventis are joint ninth on 12 points while Strakka is second in the FIA Endurance Trophy for privateer LMP1 teams. In the Michelin Green X Challenge, the hybrid Audi of Capello, Kristensen and McNish has unsurprisingly taken the lead.
Next on the calendar for the teams of the WEC is the big one, the world’s greatest race – the Le Mans 24 Hours on 16/17 June. The official test day for this year’s race will be on Sunday, 3 June.
Related Article: Driver Column: Danny Watts