Audi scored its second World Endurance Championship victory in a row in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, as Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer defeated the Porsche challenge.
Treluyer crossed the finish line 13.424s ahead of the Neel Jani-driven #18 Porsche 919 Hybrid after some thrilling racing to take a second consecutive victory for the #7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro.
Audi appeared to double stint its Michelin tyres slightly better than the Porsche squad, which started the race 1-2-3 on the starting grid.
After the #17 and #19 Porsche entries hit problems in the first half of the race, it was the #18 car of Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani that emerged as Porsche's lead challenger.
The lead fluctuated between the Audi and Porsche throughout the second half of the race with first Lotterer and Lieb engaging in a fierce battle, and then Treluyer and Lieb swapping the lead in a spectacular fight that included light contact between the duelling pair.
The advantage was eventually taken by Treluyer with 90 minutes of the race remaining when the Frenchman put a committed move on Lieb at the Pif-Paf chicane.
When Lieb handed over to teammate Jani, Treluyer made hay and extended the lead gap. Going into the final hour, the Audi held an 11 second advantage over the Porsche.
Jani soon started to eat in to the deficit and steadily reduced the gap before making a decisive move on the Kemmel Straight. However, Treyluer stayed out longer in the final stint and managed to open out enough of a gap to emerge from his final stop with 22 minutes to go with a race winning margin.
The #7 Audi had escaped a penalty earlier in the race when Fassler crossed the white line on the pit entry. The team was reported to the stewards but received only a reprimand.
The other Audis had contrasting fortunes, with the high-aero specification third R18 e-tron quattro of Marco Bonanomi, Filipe Albuquerque and Rene Rast having a relatively straightforward race to come home in fourth position.
The #8 car meanwhile had an ECU change midway through the race and then crashed out in the final stages with Oliver Jarvis hitting the barriers at Rivage in the last five minutes of the race.
Completing the podium was the #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley. They fought back from a penalty and repairs to the rear suspension of their 919 Hybrid to claim third place and their first race points of the season.
It was a disappointing race for Toyota, whose cars were never in contention. The #2 TS 040 HYBRID came home fifth, while the reigning champions Davidson and Buemi were a delayed ninth after losing many laps in the pits with an electrical problem.
Jota take LMP2 silverware
Jota Sport took a conclusive and popular victory in the LMP2 class. The team, which is racing in just two WEC events this season, fought back from a 15 second stop/go penalty for a jump start to win by a lap from the #28 G-Drive Ligier-Nissan.
Harry Tincknell started and finished the race for the British team, showcasing some mighty pace in the Gibson 015S-Nissan. Mitch Evans had earlier snatched the lead from the #26 G-Drive Ligier and then Simon Dolan had driven perhaps his best ever race at this level to preserve the lead.
Just after Tincknell got back in the cockpit for the final stints, the #26 car of Sam Bird toured in to the pits with a terminal mechanical problem. That left Jota Sport to cruise to the flag and take a second WEC victory at Spa after their 2012 success.
The LMP2 podium was completed by the #28 G-Drive Ligier of the Latin American trio of Pipo Derani, Ricardo Gonzalez and Gustavo Yacaman and the Team SARD Morand Morgan of Oliver Webb, Zoel Amberg and Pierre Ragues.
AMR take both LMGTE wins
Aston Martin Racing emerged victorious in the LMGTE Pro class after a sensational duel to the finish in the LMGTE Pro class.
In a race-long fight, the top three were rarely more than 20 seconds apart throughout the six hours. Once the #97 Aston Martin driven by Stefan Mucke had pitted early to switch to a different strategy, the #99 Aston Martin led much of the first two hours with Fernando Rees at the wheel before Richie Stanaway consolidated the lead in the middle portion of the race.
In the penultimate hour, Alex MacDowell took over the cockpit of the Aston Martin and despite a flawless stint was unable to resist the pressure of Gianmaria Bruni as the AF Corse Ferrari carved its way through at the final chicane.
However, after the final pitstops it was the Aston Martin that again emerged in the lead with Fernando Rees now in for another stint at the wheel. The Brazilian drove superbly to hold off Bruni and claim maximum points and reduce Bruni and Vilander’s points lead in the title standings.
The pressure was off for Rees in the final laps when Bruni was called in for a one-minute penalty, which was handed out for a pit stop infringement.
In second place was the #92 Porsche Team Manthey driven by Richard Lietz and Frederic Makowiecki. Their race was ultimately compromised by a drive through penalty for abusing track limits.
The #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda took a second consecutive Am class win, continuing the trio's perfect start to the year.
The #98 car led most of the race and was able to repel the advances of the second placed #83 AF Corse Ferrari of Emanuel Collard, Rui Aguas and Francois Perrodo in the final hour.
Spa 6 Hours results:
|7||Lucas di Grassi
Johannes van Overbeek
|24||Paul Dalla Lana
Khalid Al Qubaisi