Very close finish in the season opening FIA World Endurance Championship race at historic Silverstone. It was a battle between the two Audi R18 e-tron quattros in the closing minutes.
A nail biting end to the 6 Hours of Silverstone saw the nr2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Allan McNish sweep past the nr1 Audi of world champion Benoit Treluyer with just five minutes of the race remaining to win the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The win adds the names of Audi, McNish, Duval and Kristensen to the 108 year Tourist Trophy roll of honour.
The 25 points for the win in LMP1 Privateer category went to the reigning champions Rebellion Racing with dominant win for Nick Heidfeld, Nicolas Prost and Neel Jani in the nr12 Lola-Toyota. The LMP2 victory went to Silverstone based team Delta ADR as Antonio Pizzonia took the chequered flag with a one lap advantage over the nr24 Oak Racing Oreca Nissan.
In the opening hour of the race Alan McNish in the nr2 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro moved from third on the grid to leading the race within the first ten minutes. At the start Alex Wurz in the nr7 Toyota TS030 led the field into the first corner, followed by Anthony Davidson in the nr8 TS030. However McNish soon got past the second placed Toyota and then dispatched the lead car on lap six as Wurz went wide at Club corner.
Benoit Treluyer in the nr1 Audi followed his teammate by moving up from 5th on the grid to end the opening hour in 2nd place, 18.8 seconds behind his Scottish teammate.
The nr 7 Toyota then seemed to encounter a problem as Wutz was passed by Davidson and then dropped back with tyre smoke appearing from the back of the Toyota in the braking zone at the end of The Vale as the brakes locked up. However the Austrian was able to keep going and maintain the gap to the the front runners.
The LMP1 Privateer battle between Rebellion and Strakka was unable to materialize as Jonny Kane had to start the race at the back of the grid following qualifying where the HPD-Honda failed to complete four laps. Kane forced his way through to the front of LMP2 grid by lap 7. The two Rebellion Lola Toyotas led the way, with both cars being able to keep in close formation and within a lap of the works Audis and Toyotas.
The battle for LMP2 honours was led by the nr25 Delta-ADR Oreca Nissan of Antonio Pizzonia from pole position with the nr35 Oak Racing Morgan of Martin Plowman moving up from 4th on the grid to finish the hour in second.
It wasn’t a happy time for the Lotus team as the nr31T128 of Vitantonio Liuzzi had to make several pitstops for a loose door and the nr32 Lotus of Jan Charouz was hit by the nr49 Pecom Racing Oreca of Nicolas Minassian, causing damage to the steering and bodywork that looked like it may cause the cars retirement.
In hour 2 the nr2 Audi maintained the lead built up by Allan McNish in the first 60 minutes with Loic Duval ending the second hour of the 6 Hours of Silverstone 15 seconds ahead of Marcel Fassler in the nr1 R18 e-tron. The nr8 Toyota TS030 was still on the lead lap but Stephane Sarrazin was over 80 seconds behind the lead Audis and 20 seconds head of teammate Nicolas Lapierre in the nr7 TS030 which had suffered from tyre problems in the first 60-minutes of the race.
The LMP1 Privateer battle became a two horse race when Nick Leventis in the nr21 Strakka Racing HPD-Honda spun across the track at T3 and hit the nr61 Ferrari of Jack Gerber who was turning in for the next corner. The resulting damage forced Leventis to retire.
The LMP2 battle was being led by the Delta ADR run G Drive sponsored Oreca Nissan of John Martin, with the nr25 sister car of Tor Graves nearly a minute behind the Australian in 8th overall.
A sharp rain shower during the third hour shook things up with the LMP2 leader John Martin in the nr26 G Drive Racing Oreca Nissan spinning across the track on the exit of the final corner and hitting the pitwall. With most of the cars on slicks a full course yellow was declared which was withdrawn a short time later as the strong wind blew the rain clouds away from the circuit.
There was also a lead change at the front of the field with the nr1 Audi taking the lead. At the top of the hour the nr2 came into the pits with Duval handing over to Kristensen.
The Dane pushed the car on the opening lap of his stint as the nr1 car pitted with Fassler handing over to Andre Lotterer. The German emerged from the pits behind the nr2 Audi but Kristenen found himself unsighted by an Aston Martin and Lotterer took advantage to sweep into the lead.
The nr12 Rebellion Lola Toyota extended its lead in the LMP1 Privateer class, ending the third hour two laps ahead of the nr13 Rebellion of ‘Frankie’ Cheng.
With the demise of the nr26 G Drive Oreca, which rejoined the track after a lengthy pitstop to repair the damage caused by the accident. The lead reverted to the nr25 Delta-ADR Oreca of Tor Graves, who held a 90 second advantage over the nr24 Oak Racing Morgan Nissan of David Heinemeier Hansson.
In the fourth hour the typical English spring weather continued as the sun came out to bathe the Silverstone track in sunlight. The nr1 Audi R18 of Andre Lotterer ended the fourth hour of the race in the same position the German began it, leading the race by 8.1 seconds ahead of the nr2 Audi R18 e-tron of Tom Kristensen.
The two Toyotas were in third and fourth places with the nr8 TS030 of Sebastien Buemi holding the final podium position one lap behind the leader. Alex Wurz was back behind the wheel of the nr7 Toyota 42 seconds adrift of Buemi.
The LMP1 Privateer leader was still Nicolas Prost in the nr12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota, two laps ahead of the nr13 sister car which still had Frankie Cheng on driving duties.
The LMP2 lead also ended as it began an hour earlier with the nr25 Delta ADR Oreca of John Martin leading the field ahead of the nr24 Oak Racing Morgan-Nissan of Alex Brundle, who briefly led the race when the lad car pitted for fuel and tyres.
A short fuel stop in the fifth hour for the nr1 Audi of Benoit Treluyer set up a great showdown between the two R18 e-tron quattros in the last hour of the race. The nr2 Audi of Allan McNish stopped at the top of the hour for fuel and tyres from the head of the field, which gave the lead to Treluyer who pitted a lap later. However the French driver completed a short 51 second stop to get back out on track in front of his Scottish teammate.
The two Toyota TS030 were a lap behind with the nr8 TS030 of Anthony Davidson still holding the upper hand over the nr7 Toyota of Alex Wurz. The nr12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota of Nick Heidfeld is still in a dominant position in the privateer class.
In LMP2 the nr25 Delta-ADR Oreca was still at the front of the field, 43 seconds in front of the nr24 Oak Racing Morgan of Olivier Pla. The nr35 Oak Morgan of Alex Brundle pitted from 3rd place but a faulty starter motor left the British driver stranded in the pitlane and dropped the car down the order and the mechanics worked hard to fix the fault.
As the chequered flag approached Allan McNish, whose car was on fresh tyres following the pitstop, was reeling in the leading Audi with just a few laps remaining. Treluyer didn’t have an answer for the faster car and McNish swept into the lead at Luffield and moved ahead to win the race by nearly 3.5 seconds. The two Toyotas were 3rd and 4th with the two Rebellion Racing Lolas in 5th and 6th overall.
Loïc Duval (nr2 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro): “A fantastic weekend. Allan McNish was incredibly strong at Silverstone. He was very quick and even recovered the time loss after spinning shortly before the end. I’m delighted about immediately clinching a victory on my first start in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro on my Silverstone race debut.”
Tom Kristensen (nr2 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro): “A nice race in which we clearly showed how we increased our pace in the winter. Toyota’s performance deserves respect as well. We’ve seen a thrilling battle in which Allan McNish recovered despite a spin. And Loïc Duval experienced a very nice debut in our driver squad.”
Allan McNish (nr2 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro): “We knew it would be a difficult race. The competition with Toyota was tough, plus there was a thrilling duel between both Audi cars. In the end, it became a battle between Benoît Tréluyer and me. After I spun, I went for maximum attack on new tires. I managed to move to the front only on the penultimate lap. I’m happy about having scored the maximum number of points at the WEC opener for the second consecutive time.”
Marcel Fässler (nr1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro): “An extremely thrilling race. Allan McNish was running on new tires toward the end while our tires had already run for many kilometres. Congratulations to the drivers of car number 2. It was a great race for both cars and a nice one-two victory for Audi in the battle with Toyota.”
André Lotterer (nr1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro): “It was an open battle up to the end. For us, the race lasted two minutes too long...But it was a great result for Audi. For the Championship, the starting base is perfect even though we’d have liked to have been one step higher. We can be pleased nonetheless.”
Benoît Tréluyer (nr1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro) “It’s been a good race even though we were lacking a bit of fortune toward the end. But the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro is a car that feels great. A good omen for the future.”
Anthony Davidson (nr8 Toyota Racing TS030 - Hybrid): “That was a tough race and one of the harder podiums of my career. It was a case of the tyres being out of their temperature range; we were suffering from graining and a lack of front grip. Both Alex and I had to nurse them through the first stint and we were not able to double stint with them. We changed to a different compound towards the end and the track temperatures dropped more which helped us. That’s why our speed came back, but it was not enough.”
Stéphane Sarrazin (nr8 Toyota Racing TS030 - Hybrid): “It is always frustrating when you are not fastest, so it was a difficult race. But we achieved a podium and this is my first with TOYOTA Racing, so at least I am pleased with that. We didn’t have the pace today with the 2012 car but we kept pushing. Now we will look at all the information we gained today and find areas to improve. I am looking forward to Spa where I hope we will be able to push Audi harder.”
Sébastien Buemi (nr8 Toyota Racing TS030 - Hybrid): “We did our best today but we were not able to fight for the win. Nevertheless it is still a podium so we should not be too disappointed; it is a solid start to the season especially considering we used the 2012 car. We knew Audi had improved its performance with the new car so we could not expect to be the fastest here but we have lots we can learn from this weekend. We will move forward and improve for the second race; I can’t wait for Spa.”