FIAWEC: Audi Repeats At Silverstone

Photo Credit: FIA-ACO

Taking advantage of rare and uncharacteristic errors from their biggest rival, Audi Sport Team Joest managed to outpace Team Porsche on Sunday to take their second straight victory in the Six Hours of Silverstone, the opening round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship. Initially however, it appeared that Porsche’s pair of 919 Hybrids would be undeterred after dominating last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and the second half of the FIA WEC championship chase. However, things changed just after the two hour mark of the event, when while leading Porsche’s Brendon Hartley made an overly aggressive maneuver attempting to lap the GTE-Amateur classed Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR of Michael Wainwright. Forced wide at the exit of the Chapel corner, Hartley clipped Wainwright sending his 919 Hybrids into a spin and nearly a complete rollover before returning to its wheels in the gravel trap along Hangar Straight. Both drivers exited their cars without assistance, but both were finished for the day.

Things did not go unscathed for Audi however, in this scenario as during the following full course caution, Lucas di Grassi’s R18 E-Tron Quattro suddenly ground to a halt with a electrical failure on the course, forcing his retirement from the event. With both teams down to one car, Audi’s Benoit Treluyer got the jump on Porsche’s Romain Dumas to take the lead on the restart at Coppice corner. Although subject to further challenges for the remainder of the distance, Treluyer and co-drivers Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer rolled their No. 7 Audi R18 coupe onward to take their second straight win at the Silverstone Circuit, topping the Dumas, Neel Jani, and Marc Lieb driven No. 2 Porsche 919 by 46 seconds.

For the second straight year, Toyota Gazoo Racing was unable to run with their German counterparts, yet would round out the podium with Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway, and Stephane Sarrazin taking the honor. Toyota appeared set to place two of their all-new TS050 Hybrids in the first four, however that changed when the sister car of Kaz Nakajima suffered a flat tire that badly damaged the underside and rear of the car.  As a result, the non-hybrid AER-powered Rebellion R-Ones would take advantage of the higher than normal attrition to place two cars in the overall top five on Sunday.

In LMP2, Tequila Patron ESM’s hopes of claiming a third straight win to open 2016 were denied by sports car newcomers RGR-Morand Racing who took home a 32 second win over ESM in their debut run. Mexico’s only major sports car racing squad in existence, team boss Ricardo Gonzalez and co-drivers Bruno Senna and Filipe Albuquerque put their AT&T-sponsored Ligier-Nissan coupe in front just after the halfway mark, after a spirited three-way fight with ESM and G-Drive Racing. Building almost a full lap lead on the field, RGR-Morand cruised to victory holding on despite a furious late surge by ESM’s Pipo Derani, the same Brazilian who almost single-handedly led the squad to overall wins at both Daytona and Sebring. Despite having to switch from Honda power (unapproved for FIA competition) to Nissan engines, ESM’s trio of Derani, Ryan Dalziel, and Chris Cumming stayed among the top five in class from start to finish.

G-Drive Racing, who was looking sweep both the European Le Mans Series and FIA WEC events this weekend, would settle for third at the finish,with Signatech Alpine’s first effort with a re-badged Oreca 05 coupe in fourth and Strakka Racing’s open top Gibson prototype rounding out the first five.

In the grand touring categories, AF Corse’s new Ferrari 488 in GTE-Pro and its proven Ferrari 458 in GTE-Amateur swept both divisions on Sunday. Despite only utilizing two drivers on their team, Sam Bird and Davide Rigon led from the end of hour two to the finish to secure the Pro division, with teammates James Calado and Gianmaria Bruni coming from early mechanical issues in the first hour to secure a 1-2 finish. In the Amateur class, Rui Aguas, Emmanuel Collard, and Francois Perrodo took control in the second half of the event following mechanical problems suffered by early leaders Abu-Dhabi Proton Competition. Keeping their nose clean to the finish, Collard finished off the win topping the runners-up from Aston Martin Racing by over a lap.

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