Less than a month after their dramatic 24 Hours of Le Mans win Audi Sport Team Joest left Imola disappointed after only finishing third and fourth in the Six Hours of Imola – the latest round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC).
In the car he shared with Timo Bernhard, Marcel Fassler – one of the three men who gave Audi their latest Le Mans win – started the weekend off well, putting the no.1 Audi R18 on the front row of the grid and was able to maintain that position through the early part of the race.
However, both Audis were losing time, the traffic of a 48 car field around the Imola track, one of the narrower venues the ILMC and Le Mans Series have graced in recent seasons, catching out drivers perhaps mindful of the La Sarthe accidents last month. After the first round of stops, less than hour into the race the two Audis ran third and fourth, the no.1 car leading the no.2 driven by Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish
The disappointment was made greater as the Imola race was the debut of the aerodynamic package Audi will use on the R18 for the remainder of the ILMC season – Silverstone, Petit Le Mans and Zhuhai.
The new configuration was designed to generate more downforce than at Le Mans, however, the expected increase in performance at Imola failed to materialise, Head of Audi Motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich promising the team will “use the findings from Imola to fight for victory at Silverstone.”
The pair of Audis finished third and fourth, Kristensen and Bernhard fighting for the final step on the podium through the closing stages of the race with the Dane losing out by just two seconds as both cars finished a lap adrift of the winning Peugeot 908.
Much of the time lost was down to the build-up of rubber, overheating the front brakes. All four Audi drivers experienced problems that not only slowed them on track but lost them time during pitstops to clean the rubber off.
“A lot of dirt and rubber pickup settled in the brake cooling system,” explained Bernhard. “[That] caused the brake temperature to rise and we had to clean the cooling system at each pit stop. We had to shift the brake balance very far to the rear – that changed the whole car. That's a shame but we'll strike back. Third place was all we could squeeze out of the situation today.”