Audi victorious at WEC Silverstone opener as Porsche cracks

© Audi Sport

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.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”