Audi ended an 11-month win drought in the FIA World Endurance Championship by emerging victorious from a frantic 6 Hours of Silverstone on Sunday, defeating defending champions Porsche in the season-opener.
After taking an unlikely pole position on Saturday, the no. 7 car of Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer followed it up with an equally unexpected victory in Sunday’s race as the trio kept its cool while all about it lost theirs.
Porsche enjoyed the early edge at Silverstone in the race as the defending champion 919 Hybrid car of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard surged into the lead in the opening stages after starting third on the grid.
However, the no. 1 crashed out in spectacular fashion when Hartley tried to pass GTE Am entry Gulf Racing’s Porsche 911 RSR around the outside of Farm, only for the two to make contact.
Hartley’s 919 Hybrid narrowly avoided righting itself before coming to rest in the gravel, and thankfully both drivers were able to walk away from the incident unharmed – even if the same could not be said of their cars.
Audi lost one of its cars almost simultaneously when the no. 8 R18 piloted by Lucas di Grassi at the time stopped out on track before filling with smoke, leaving both of the German marques with just one car in contention at the front of the pack.
The no. 2 Porsche and no. 7 Audi enjoyed a spirited battle for the lead through the middle stages of the race before Treluyer took the lead in the latter car with with three hours remaining.
Porsche’s sole remaining car soon hit trouble after dropping to second place. Marc Lieb was hit by one of the Ford GTs in GTE Pro, dropping him back before handing over to Neel Jani who was forced into an extra pit stop by a puncture in the final hour.
Just seven seconds separated the two cars in the closing stages, only for Jani to require a late pit stop that sealed the race for Audi’s no. 7 crew.
Fassler crossed the line 46 seconds clear of the field in P1, marking Audi’s first WEC victory since the 6 Hours of Spa almost one year ago.
Toyota completed the podium with its no. 6 TS050 Hybrid car shared by Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin, having seen the sister no. 5 entry drop back mid-race due to bodywork damage caused by a puncture.
This allowed Rebellion Racing to enjoy one of the strongest races for a privateer LMP1 team in the recent history of the WEC, finishing fourth and fifth.
LMP2 saw the RGR Sport by Morand team pick up a debut class victory, becoming the first Mexican outfit to win in the WEC. The no. 43 Ligier of Filipe Albuquerque, Ricardo Gonzalez and Bruno Senna finished half a minute clear of the no. 31 ESM entry, while defending champions G-Drive Racing completed the podium.
GTE Pro proved to be a bloodbath for AF Corse as the new Ferrari 488 GTE made an impact on debut, taking no. 71 drivers Davide Rigon and Sam Bird to a lights to flag victory. Despite taking a three minute penalty for an engine change early in the race, Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado fought back in the sister no. 51 Ferrari to secure a one-two for AF Corse, the podium being completed by the no. 95 Aston Martin Vantage V8.
Ferrari also led from Aston Martin in GTE Am courtesy of the no. 83 AF Corse entry as Manu Collard, Francois Perrodo and Rui Aguas finished a lap ahead of the no. 98 V8 Vantage of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda. Abu Dhabi Proton Racing had led for much of the race with its no. 88 Porsche 911 RSR, only for issues to drop the car to fifth come the checkered flag.
The FIA WEC returns in three weeks’ time with the 6 Hours of Spa in Belgium.