FIA WEC: Title defense starts poorly for Audi

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In a day that proved “extremely bitter” in the words of Audi Motorsport head Wolfgang Ullrich, both of the 4-Rings’ LMP1 machines failed to see the checkered flag at today’s World Endurance Championship season opener at Silverstone.

Prior to today, the Audi camp had never suffered that particular fate in a WEC event. The last time that Audi was unable to get a single championship point from its prototypes came at Road Atlanta in 2011.

And it all started well enough for Audi, too. Andre Lotterer took the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro from fourth on the grid to the lead early but after light rain started to fall on the famed British circuit, things turned disastrous for the reigning WEC champions.

Lucas di Grassi lost control of the No. 1 Audi and crashed, causing terminal chassis damage, while Lotterer spun the No. 2 into the gravel. The spin cost the car four laps and shortly after it was taken over by Benoit Treluyer, he too spun and crashed at Copse. He was unable to get the car back to the pits.

““We hadn’’t expected the rain to become so heavy, that’s why we continued to run on slicks,” Di Grassi said of his accident. “But, unfortunately, the track was too cold and wet for the tires. That’’s why I had an accident in which the monocoque was so severely damaged that we had to give up.”

“Obviously, not finishing with either car is not what we aim for,” Treluyer said. “In such wet conditions, it’s hard to name a cause. Whether it was the driver, the general track conditions, the curbs in a particular corner or the car is hard to say in such conditions. We’re going to analyze this in detail over the next few days.”

With just two weeks until the next WEC race at Spa-Francorchamps, it’s likely that some long nights are ahead for Audi as they work to replace their battered machines and finish up prep for a third R18 that will be involved as a tune-up for Le Mans.