Finishing second to the Toyota Racing squad the Audi R18 e-tron quattro driving threesome of Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer turned their focus to the long game of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) title.
“For us, it was important to extend the lead in the drivers’ standings,” said Fassler. “We managed to do that. But it wasn’t an easy race because our pace wasn’t good enough for winning. We tried to give our best. But we’ve got no reason to be sad after this day either. We’re looking ahead with a positive attitude. The situation in the championship is looking pretty good for us.”
In the championship the Le Mans winners brought with them a 4.5 point lead from Silverstone to the Six Hours of Sao Paulo and by beating their Audi teammates Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish to second place they added another 7.5 points to the lead with three rounds remaining.
In qualifying the internecine battle was won by Lucas Di Grassi in the #2 R19 ultra, the new comer to endurance racing and Audi beating Lotterer to join the Toyota hybrid on the front row for the start of the race.
The order between the pair of R18s was realigned in favour of Treluyer, but the gap to the Toyota was too great, and the speed of drivers Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre too much for either Audi to mount a meaningful challenge for the lead. The diesel Audi’s strength relative to the Toyota remained superior fuel economy – the winning car still need to make an extra pitstop compared to the R18s. However, that advantage was partly cancelled out by higher than expected tyre wear for the Audis, especially for the #2 car.
For their part Audi were quick to congratulate their new rivals on their first victory; “Congratulations to Toyota on an absolutely flawless race,” said Ralf Jüttner, technical director for Audi Sport Team Joest. “Our cars ran longer on one full fuel tank but Toyota was faster on average and did a better job of handling the tires. We made no mistakes, the stops were good, all drivers were quick and Lucas left a particularly positive impression on his first run. But driving without making any mistakes and then not winning obviously can’t be our goal. We’ve got to try and improve.”
“This was an outstanding experience for me,” reflected Di Grassi upon his Audi debut, which also included the fastest race lap for the Ingolstadt marque. “I hope I did the best possible job for the team. I was able to learn a lot from my team-mates. We always gave everything – in practice, in qualifying and in the race. This was sort of a sprint race in which we were driving at the limit through to the end and we finished with a relatively narrow margin behind our sister car. Unfortunately, we had a bit of a gap to Toyota, who deserved this victory. ‘Well done’ to our rivals. A nice battle like this one in a championship is always very special.”
The WEC continues with the Six Hours of Bahrain on September 29.