WEC: Audi victorious at 6 Hours of Silverstone after thrilling fight with Porsche

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Audi has won the opening round of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone on Sunday following a thrilling fight with Porsche that saw the race be decided in just the final few laps.

The no. 7 car of Marcel Fassler, Benoit Treluyer and Andre Lotterer claimed the LMP1 class win having fended off the advances of the no. 18 Porsche and the no. 1 Toyota in the final few minutes of the race. At the checkered flag, just 14.8 seconds separated the three manufacturers after six hours of racing.

After going one-two in qualifying on Saturday, Porsche looked poised to make an impressive start to the season, and led the early stages with the no. 17 car piloted for the first stint by Mark Webber.

However, the Australian’s hopes of claiming the first win of the year were quickly dashed due to a problem with the rear drivetrain on the car, causing him to retire the car after 90 minutes.

In the sister no. 18 Porsche, Marc Lieb moved into the lead, but soon found himself embroiled in a battle with the no. 7 Audi, which had fought back at the hands of Treluyer from a poor start caused by a lack of telemetry.

Despite having the straight line advantage, Porsche struggled to pull away from Audi in the corners, creating some fascinating racing throughout the race as the no. 1 Toyota circled behind, ready to pounce should the two leading cars come to blows.

Porsche looked to get the jump on both Audi and Toyota by pitting six times instead of seven, with the no. 18 making its final stop with 50 minutes to go in the race. Neel Jani was tasked with bringing the car home, but Marcel Fassler was pushing on at the front for Audi, trying to create a gap before a final splash and dash pit stop.

However, his efforts were hindered when the stewards at Silverstone deemed the no. 7 car to have gained an advantage by running off track, going wide at the final corner to avoid a GT Aston Martin Racing whilst battling with the no. 18. This left Fassler with a pit stop and a stop/go penalty to serve in the final 20 minutes of the race.

After being given the hurry-up by his engineer, Leena Gade, Fassler completed his two stops and remarkably retained his lead, emerging with a 11 second advantage over Jani with just 12 minutes remaining. Jani pushed on, cutting the gap in half, but eventually ran out of time.

With a record 201 laps on the board and eight pit stops completed, Fassler crossed the line in the no. 7 Audi to win the 6 Hours of Silverstone and clinch the RAC Tourist Trophy, the oldest trophy in motorsport.

“For sure it was really exciting to do these nice fights with Neel,” Fassler said after the race. “A good race with a good end for us.

“I actually don’t know why we got this stop and go penalty, but in the end it was good. I’m just happy to be back on the top step of the podium.”

Jani was just 4.6 seconds behind Fassler at the line, whilst Sebastien Buemi began his title defence in third place, 14.8 seconds down on the race winner. The no. 2 Toyota finished fourth ahead of the no. 8 Audi as both cars hit trouble across the course of the race. The ByKolles car retired with 116 laps on the board during its debut weekend in LMP1.

In LMP2, the G-Drive team made good on its pre-season form and practice showings by claiming a one-two finish in class. The no. 26 Ligier car finished 16 laps down on the lead LMP1 car in fifth overall, with Sam Bird crossing the line first ahead of Pipo Derani in the no. 28 car. Extreme Speed Motorsports completed the class podium with the no. 30 in third place ahead of the all-British no. 42 entry from Strakka Racing.

Defending GT WEC champion Gianmaria Bruni kicked off his title defence in style by winning the GTE Pro class in the no. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, enjoying an advantage of ten seconds over the no. 91 Porsche Team Manthey car at the flag. Davide Rigon and James Calado completed the podium for AF Corse in the no. 71 as Aston Martin Racing finished fourth fifth and six with the no. 95, the no. 97 and the no. 99 respectively.

Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda did manage to bring some joy to Aston Martin Racing, though, by winning the GTE Am class ahead of AF Corse’s no. 83 and the SMP Racing no. 72. With just 30 seconds separating the top three in class, it was another close affair.

At the start of what looks poised to be the WEC’s biggest season to date, Silverstone played host to an incredible feast of racing on Sunday as the LMP1 titans all laid claim to their title bid. However, a very good omen for the no. 7 car is the fact that the winners of the 6 Hours of Silverstone have always gone on to win the world championship.

The second round of the WEC season takes place at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on May 2.

Previous F1 competition doesn’t guarantee IndyCar success at COTA

Manor F1 Photo
Manor F1 Photo
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AUSTIN, Texas – Familiarity does not breed success, according to three NTT IndyCar Series drivers who have previous experience at Circuit of the Americas in the Formula One United States Grand Prix. Several other drivers, including IndyCar Series rookie Patricio O’Ward, competed in the LMPC IMSA race in 2017.

Although the course is the same – 20-turns and 3.41-miles – the cars are completely different. The highly-advanced, technologically-driven Formula One cars are advanced beyond the realm of anything allowed in the NTT IndyCar Series. It’s more about the driver in IndyCar, which uses an impressive, but simpler formula to help showcase driver skill more than technology in its races.

Money buys speed in Formula One, but an IndyCar team doesn’t need a $400 million budget to go racing. It can get by on $5 millions to $10 million a year and contend for plenty of race victories and championships.

Andretti Autosport star Alexander Rossi drove in five Formula One races with Manor in 2015. The above photo is from his only F1 contest at COTA that season. He was the first driver ever to turn laps at COTA shortly after it was constructed in 2012.

Rossi had his best F1 finish in the 2015 United States Grand Prix when he started 17thand finished 12th.

“When I’ve come here in the past, I came into the weekend fully knowing that there was no chance to ever really do anything from a results perspective,” Rossi said. “To could come here to a track that I’ve spent a lot of time at, not necessarily driven a whole lot, but spent a huge amount of time at. To come into this weekend’s race, competing on a level where we have as good a shot as any, to win the race would be pretty cool.

“There’s kind of an almost unfinished business box that we’d like to tick here in some way. I’m very excited to get the weekend started.”

Chilton raced the entire F1 season in 2013 and 2014 with Marussia. He started 21stand finished 21stin 2013. He started in the first 16 races during the 2014 F1 season but was out of a ride by the time F1 arrived at COTA that season.

Me and Alex probably had pretty similar experiences,” Chilton told NBC Sports.com “Obviously the more laps are better — but the car we were in, we weren’t doing much racing, so the sort of racing experience part isn’t going to help.

“It’s good to be back. I first came here in 2013 for the (United States) Grand Prix. I loved the track. I love the city. I really enjoyed the whole facility, the race track. It’s a pretty long track in an Indy car but it’s got lots of overtaking potential for us and hopefully we’ll put on a great show.

“It’s great to have an English band like Muse on Saturday night, as well.”

Marcus Ericsson of Sweden has the most experience at COTA of any driver in the field for Sunday’s INDYCAR Classic. He competed in 97 F1 contests from 2014-2018 before becoming an IndyCar rookie with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this season.

Ericsson was 15thin 2015, 14thin 2016, 15thin 2017 and 10thin last year’s USGP.

“I’ve been here quite a few times,” Ericsson said. “It’s one of the best tracks on F1 and I think it’s great we are going here with INDYCAR. It’s going to be a great weekend.

“The racing should be very good. It’s already good on F1 on this track and from what I’ve done in INDYCAR, it’s going to be a really good show from everyone and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Ericsson emphasized that the his F1 experience does not necessarily give him any type of advantage in an IndyCar.

“I think for me I was here a couple months ago in F1 doing the race in ’18. I had all my reference points and then I did the first run and realized that didn’t really work,” Ericsson explained to NBC Sports.com “So I don’t know that the experience — it’s good to know the track, but then the Indy cars are very different cars to the F1 (car) so you have to sort of drive it quite differently and in the end, I think it didn’t really help the maximum amount in my opinion.

“The problem is we had two days of testing already in IndyCar. If we had come here straightaway without any testing it would be an advantage of one hundredth approximate. But now, if you don’t get the track in two days, I don’t think you would be in IndyCar.

“I don’t think it’s a big advantage now going into the weekend.”

But every little bit helps and if all of those little “bits” of information are added up, previous experience can provide a benefit in the race.

“For sure there’s things I can bring from my experience there that helps in INDYCAR, but the Indy car to drive today is different than the Formula One cars with the power steering and everything,” Ericsson continued. “I think it’s two different cars and what I found here on the test; things that worked in the F1 car didn’t really work in the Indy car. I think both cars of very difficult to be fast in but in different ways.

“For sure my experience in F1, it’s helped me to get into INDYCAR.”

James Hinchcliffe, who has never driven in Formula One, or at COTA, believes he has the best experience of any driver in Austin this weekend.

“I know where the restaurants are, so that’s cool,” Hinchcliffe said.