Audi Takes Win At Spa-Francorchamps In WEC
Marks the Four Ring’s first victory of the seasonby Jonathan Lopez, on
The second round of the 2016 WEC season was held over the weekend, playing out on the fast, twisting elevation changes of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. The 6-hour endurance race saw carnage across the field, with numerous technical problems plaguing each of the hybrid LMP1 competitors, only a third of which managed to finish. In the end, it was the No. 8 Audi R18 e-tron quattro driven by Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval, and Oliver Jarvis that clinched the win, handing the Four Rings its 106th LMP victory since the 2000 season.
However, the road to victory wasn’t exactly smooth, as each of the top three manufacturers swapped the lead position throughout the race. First in front was Porsche, headed by the No. 1 919 Hybrid driven by defending World Champions Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley, and Timo Bernhard. Unfortunately, multiple tire punctures and gearbox issues ended up sidelining the No. 1 Porsche for the majority of the race, while the No. 2 car experienced issues with its hybrid system, resulting in a loss of power.
Toyota took advantage of Porsche’s problems, with the No. 5 TS050 sliding its way to the front, holding the position for much of the race. However, engine issues eventually forced the No. 5 Toyota to run solely on electric power, while the No. 6 Toyota was forced to retire outright, also due to engine problems.
That handed Audi the lead, but the R18s had problems of their own. The No. 7 car was the hardest hit of the two, falling out of the running after damaging its underfloor on a curb, subsequently pitting for repairs that cost nearly 15 minutes. Overheating issues and a drive-through penalty later compounded the lengthy stop.
Comparatively speaking, the No. 8 car got away clean, finishing two laps ahead at the checkered despite requiring a new rear deck during the race’s singular safety car period.
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Why it matters
To finish first, you must first finish – we’ve all heard it a million times, but nowhere is the adage more relevant than in endurance racing. Of course, the fact that Porsche, Toyota, and Audi are campaigning hybrid racers makes it that much more difficult for them, as the extra electric motivation comes at the cost of significant technical complications.
That said, it’s impressive how all three managed to overcome multiple setbacks to at least cross the finish line. Porsche took second place on the podium without the aid of its hybrid system, while Toyota took seventh in class on electric power alone. Meanwhile, the No.7 Audi managed fifth in class after multiple pit stops.
“Today, the drivers, the team and the technology had to show real endurance qualities,” said the head of Audi Motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, in a press release. “I am very happy about the first joint victory clinched by Lucas, Loic and Oliver.”
Dr. Ullrich has every right to be proud. The victory comes just before the WEC circus heads to the Circuit de la Sarthe in France for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, scheduled to take place June 18th and 19th. Last year, Porsche went one-two, putting an end to Audi’s five-year winning streak and marking its first victory in the historic race since 1998. Audi finished third, and you can bet it’s hungry to snatch top honors this year.
Will Porsche hold fast, or will Audi reclaim its spot at the top? So far, the wind seems to be blowing in Porsche’s favor, as a second-place finish at Spa keeps Stuttgart ahead in championship points after a first-place finish at Silverstone. Meanwhile, Toyota is floundering in fifth, but the TS050 showed real promise in Belgium (before it blew up, that is). Plus, this is endurance racing, and a lot can happen in 24 hours.
Testing will commence June 5th.
Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (Audi R18) 160 laps
2 Dumas/Jani/Lieb (Porsche) –2 laps
3 Imperatori/Kraihamer/Tuscher (Rebellion) –4 laps
4 Heidfeld/Piquet/Prost (Rebellion) –5 laps
5 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18) –5 laps
6 Rossiter/Trummer/Webb (CLM-AER) –9 laps
7 Lapierre/Menezes/Richelmi (Alpine) –9 laps
8 Cumming/Dalziel/Derani (Ligier-Nissan) –9 laps
9 Bradley/Merhi/Rao (Oreca-Nissan) –9 laps
10 Albuquerque/Gonzalez/Senna (Ligier-Nissan) –9 laps