Over 35,000 visitors to Silverstone witnessed Audi being crowned as the inaugural FIA World Endurance Manufacturer Champions as they claimed a first and third placed finish at the 6 Hours of Silverstone.
Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoit Tréluyer in the nr1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, followed up their victory at the 24 Heures du Mans in June with a win at the Home of British Motor Racing. However they had to fight hard as they were pushed all the way to the chequered flag by the Toyota Racing TS030 of Alex Wurz, Kazuki Nakajima and Nicolas Lapierre, who provided the large crowd with a sporting spectacle of the highest order. The nr2 Audi R18 Ultra of Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen was third after a slow puncture forced the team to make an unscheduled pitstop during the race.
The nr13 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota of Andrea Belicchi and Harold Primat took the top honours in the LMP1 Privateer Class but were nearly beaten to the chequered flag by the nr21 Strakka Racing HPD-Honda of Danny Watts, who closed the gap to just 0.627 seconds as the two cars crossed the line after 360 minutes of racing.
Silverstone based team ADR-Delta took the win in the LMP2 category, with the nr25 Oreca-Nissan of John Martin, Tor Graves and Jan Charouz taking the win just 5.6 seconds ahead of Le Mans and Sebring winners Enzo Potolicchio, Ryan Dalziel and Stephane Sarrazin in the nr44 Starworks Motorsports HPD-Honda, with the nr26 Signatech Nissan Oreca-Nissan of Pierre Ragues, Nelson Panciatici and Roman Rusinov finishing a close 3rd.
It was drama all the way in the opening hour of the race. The nr7 Toyota TS030 of Alex Wurz got a good start to move ahead of the nr2 Audi R18 ultra of Tom Kristensen at the first corner, with the Austrian then tracking the nr1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Andre Lotterer for the next eleven laps before taking the lead when the lead car got stuck behind some back markers. Wurz then opened up a 10 second lead before pitting for fuel on lap 22. The Audis went four laps further before refuelling on laps 26 and 27 respectively and the opening hour ended with the nr7 Toyota holding a 14.3 second lead with 39 laps completed.
The LMP2 lead car was the nr44 Starworks Motorsports HPD of Stephane Sarrazin took the lead on the opening lap after the nr42 Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan of Alex Brundle had to take avoiding action at the first corner when Peter Dumbreck’s JRM got out of shape. Sarrazin ended the opening hour 7 seconds ahead of John Martin in the nr25 ADR-Delta Oreca-Nissan, with Pierre Kaffer in 3rd in the nr49 Pecom Racing Oreca-Nissan.
A safety car to recover the stricken nr32 Lotus, which had pulled off with smoke coming from the engine bay, bunched the field. The Toyota TS030 of Kazuki Nakajima continued to head the 35 car field ahead of the two Audi R18s with Benoit Tréluyer in the nr1 Audi in second place and Allan McNish in the nr2 Audi in third but McNish was forced to make an unscheduled pitstop on lap 61 due to a slow puncture.
The Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota’s of Nicolas Prost and Harold Primat held a 1-2 in the LMP1 Privateer battle, well ahead of the JRM HPD-Honda of Karun Chandhok and the nr21 Strakka Racing HPD-Honda.
A Stop-Go penalty for the nr1 Audi didn’t stop the R18 e-tron ending the fourth hour in the lead of the 6 Hours of Silverstone but the gap to the Toyota TS0303 was just 21 seconds after 240 minutes of racing. The penalty was imposed after the Audi collided with the nr57 Krohn Racing Ferrari in the third hour. The LMP1 Privateer battle changed after the nr12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota was also given a Stop-Go also for a collision with the nr57 Ferrari in a separate incident. After the visit to the pitlane Neel Jani rejoined in 7th overall with the nr13 Rebellion Lola of Andrea Belicchi taking the lead.
The penultimate hour of the 6 Hours of Silverstone saw the Audi-Toyota battle continue with 43 seconds separating Andrea Lotterer and Alex Wurz after 300 minutes of racing. A safety car period to recover the stricken nr23 Signatech Nissan of Jordan Tresson, who had crashed at the start of the Hangar Straight, failed to close the gap between the two lead cars as they were separated behind separate safety cars. The nr2 Audi R18 Ultra of Tom Kristensen was lying in third as the hour closed.
The nr13 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota was still the top LMP1 Privateer with the nr25 ADR-Delta Oreca continuing to lead the LMP2 class with Jan Charouz taking over from Tor Graves.
The final hour saw the positions remain the same after the final pitstops and the chequered flag waved to confirm Audi as World Champions as Andre Lotterer crossed the line. Meanwhile Danny Watts in the nr21 Strakka Racing HPD was closing the gap to the nr13 Rebellion Racing Lola but Andrea Belicchi held on to cross the line to secure the top spot in the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP1 Private Teams. Jan Charouz scored the first LMP2 win of the year for the Silverstone based ADR-Delta team to the delight of the team members who lined the pitwall.
In LMGTE the 6 Hours of Silverstone proved to be a happy hunting ground for the AF Corse team as they took wins in both the LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am categories. The nr51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella won the LMGTE Pro class in a hard fought race, while the nr61 AF Corse-Waltrip Ferrari 458 Italia of Piergiuseppe Perrazzini, Marco Cioci and Matt Griffin were victorious in LMGTE Am finishing ahead of the nr50 Larbre Competition Corvette and the nr88 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche.
From the start of the race the LMGTE Pro battle was raging fiercely with pole sitter Richard Lietz holding onto the lead in the nr77 Felbermayr-Proton Porsche while Gianmaria Bruni in the nr51 AF Corse Ferrari and Darren Turner in the nr97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage were trading places, with Turner ending the opening hour ahead of the Italian.
It was more of the same in the next 60-minutes as the LMGTE Pro class provided some of the best racing. The nr97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Stefan Mucke closed the gap to less than a second to the leading nr77 Felbermayr-Proton Porsche of Marc Lieb, with the nr51 AF Corse Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella keeping pace with the two lead cars. Disaster struck as the race approached the halfway point when the nr77 Felbermayr-Proton Porsche suffered a rear suspension problem and had to crawl back to the pits for repairs, leaving the nr97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage in the class lead.
However the lead soon changed when the Aston Martin made a pitstop and the AF Corse Ferrari took the lead with Gianmaria Bruni back in the cockpit of the 458, with the Italian holding a 22 second advantage as the race entered the final stages.
At the chequered flag the nr51 AF Corse crossed the line to take the victory two laps ahead of the JMW Motorsport Ferrari of James Walker and Jonny Cocker with the nr97 Aston Martin taking the final podium position after a clash with the nr71 AF Corse Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini at the final corner which saw the Ferrari beached in the gravel trap.
The LMGTE Am class was closely fought, with the nr61 AF Corse-Waltrip Ferrari holding the early lead, then it was the nr50 Larbre Competition Corvette, followed by the nr88 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche in the later stages of the 6 hour race. As the race drew to a close it was the nr61 AF Corse-Waltrip 458 that was ahead and the car crossed the line 54 seconds ahead of their nearest rival. However at post race scrutineering the nr50 Larbre Competition Corvette was excluded for not complying with the safety rules.
“What the drivers have to say”
nr1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R-18 e-tron quattro
Andre Lotterer: “I wish the battle with Alex at the beginning had lasted longer! I tried to pass him but lost downforce and he got past me. It’s a long race and I didn’t want to risk anything and at that time of the race he was quicker than me. The car was good and I didn’t have any problems in my first two stints.
Benoit Treluyer: “Our strategy was to go as quick as possible all the time. We saw very good pace on the Toyota and of course that’s good for the Championship. Of course we were pushing hard and we weren’t sure we could catch up at the end but it was okay.”
Marcel Fassler: “It’s very satisfying to seal the Manufactuers’ Championship for Audi. Four races left and things can change again but for sure we’ve now had another step towards the goal we want to achieve at the end of the year. Let’s see how it goes – it would be nice to finish like that.”
nr7 Toyota Racing Toyota TS030 – Hybrid
Alex Wurz: “To get second place is a great result. This is only our second race, eight months after our first roll-out and we are fighting against a competitor who has more than a decade of experience. We have to optimize everything to win but it is fantastic to motivate even more our team. We have shown a really good pace and demonstrated the performance of our hybrid technology.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “Of course I am pleased with this result and proud to take the first podium of the team in the WEC. My double stint was not easy; I was unlucky in the traffic. We had a really good pace today, with a car that delivered what we expected with our new aerodynamic package. We were consistent and clearly on the pace of our competitors. Our fastest lap shows our potential and we hope to win a race before the end of the season. I think we can make it; this will be the target.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “I am really happy with this result even if we all want to make one more step higher on the podium. We had a good fight with our competitors and it was really nice to have this battle with Benoît Treluyer. I think everybody saw how well our TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing is working. Despite a lot of traffic I had a good stint and the car was nice balanced. It was important for us to have a clean race and to achieve our first podium. We have some progress to make but we are ready for the next step.”
nr25 ADR-Delta Oreca03-Nissan
“It’s great to win here. I live across the road so it’s pretty much a second home to me. We’ve shown really good pace all this year and it’s good to finally win one of these things. Was the key the triple stint at the start? I wouldn’t say so as we had a really good strategy which we stuck to. We knew we had to work on some areas after Le Mans, which we did, and it paid off. The start was hard and I had some good fights with Starworks early on but then manage to get a reasonable lead. The car was pretty good all day and it was a good team effort.”
Tor Graves: “All week I’ve been struggling with my driving. I don’t really know what happened by I was way off so going into the race I lacked confidence. I took it easy for the first couple of laps but the car felt good and I started pushing and the lap times came, comparable to John’s times which helped maintain the lead.”
Jan Charouz: “We had a bit of hiccup with the final pit stop which lost us a few seconds. I think we were unlucky with the traffic towards the end which allowed Sarrazin to catch us a little, but when it was clear we were doing the same lap times as him. The car wasn’t maybe at its best but we brought it home and won and it’s great. I’m really impressed with Tor who did a great job today.”
nr51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia LMGTE-Pro
Gianmaria Bruni: “In the race we were able to follow the Porsche as close as possible until we got into LMP traffic. The Aston was coming up on us very fast and managed to overtake me and the Porsche. Our strategy was to try and be at the same speed as them but at the same time use less fuel. That was our plan and I think we achieved it 100%. We did more laps on a stint than the other Ferraris, between me and Giancarlo.
“I think at the moment the Porsches and Astons are very fast on performance and very consistent on their tyres, but the safety cars didn’t affect us as they were for a short time. They would have had to be 15-20 laps for our competitors to have been able to gain on us.”
Giancarlo Fisichella: “It was a great race and it’s a fantastic feeling following on from Le Mans 24 Hours. We won here last year and the championship so we’re good on this type of circuit. As usual it was a tough race but it was one we could control from the beginning, keeping close to the Porsche and Aston Martin. Because our fuel consumption is good we knew at the end of the race they needed to do an extra pit stop compared to us so it was a perfect race for us. The AF Corse guys did a fantastic job – they were very quick. I had just one contact from the back, don’t know from who, and lost the car in turn one but was able to keep in on the track and it was good to go to the end of the race for the win.”
nr61 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia LMGTE-Am
Marco Cioci: “It was a good battle and we had the same strategy as the No.51 car. We tried to save fuel but it was hard at the beginning as the Aston Martin and Porsche were very quick. Our strategy was to be as quick as possible and save one pit stop. Piergiuseppe Perrazini was great and saved more fuel than anybody – Matt did an incredible double stint and saved fuel. The car was perfect. Some prototypes made it a very exciting race – I heard often about Pro-Am accidents but today I saw some incredible risky driving from an LMP1 in the last 8 laps but we finished in the best position so I am happy about this.”
Piergiuseppe Perrazini: “It was good to get the victory here – my second race in the world championship. It was a very important victory for me because, after the big crash at the 24 hours, there was a lot of discussion about me. Now this is the greatest satisfaction for me and the team because I had a bad period after that crash.”
Matt Griffin: “We were confident after Friday because we had good pace in the car and we realised we were very good on fuel like the other AF Corse Ferraris. We still had to push which is difficult for a driver when you are on a fuel saving map and are still on the limit, pushing as hard as you can go. It started to become clear during my double stint that things were getting better and my pit board was making me happier every lap I came round. We had a slight issue with air jacks at the last pit stop but then Marco got in and was able to control the race for the last stint. The WEC races are hard and the drivers are good so to win them you need every piece of the puzzle to fit into place – the team and the drivers to do the maximum job and today we did that. I’m chuffed to win at Silverstone – I’m not British but it’s still my home race so I’m really happy.”
(image: FIA WEC)