Audi will start the final round of the FIA World Endurance Championship from the second row after having to admit defeat to the two Toyotas in Bahrain.
Andre Lotterer and Loic Duval began the session for the #1 and #2 Audi e-tron quattros respectively, with Lotterer momentarily sitting at the top of the standings before being beaten by just 0.08 seconds by the leading Toyota. After the completion of their two laps, Lotterer occupied second place on the provisional grid, while Duval sat in third.
“On my first outing on new tires it was very close” said Lotterer. “We were almost in front. But it looks as though our tires degrade faster than those of our opponents because we lost more time. So we’ve got to do a few more things for the race. But it’ll be a long race. At Shanghai, three weeks ago, things weren’t looking so good either but we still managed to turn the tables.”
Marcel Fassler took over from Andre Lotterer in the #1 machine, while Duval handed the #2 R18 to Allan McNish. It soon became clear that both drivers were struggling on the used tyres compared to the two Toyota drivers, with neither driver able to replicate the pace of their team-mates. As a result, Audi occupy the second row of the grid for the final race of the year.
For the race, Lotterer and Fassler will be joined by Benoit Treluyer for their final race as defending World Champions, handing their crown over to McNish, Duval and Tom Kristensen – assuming all three drivers complete the required 45 minutes of driving time in order to score points.
“Despite only starting from the second row of the grid I have a good feeling that we’ll be competitive in the race,” said McNish. “One thing is assured that Tom, Loïc and I will fight for the six hour duration so as to finish off the season in the best style possible. We’ve struggled with the low grip of the circuit which is normal around here and in comparison to Toyota, the characteristics of the track suit them more than it suits the Audi. But to win a championship you have to race on every type of track and be competitive on every type of track.”
“The qualifying session more or less reflects our performances in the sessions at previous events,” concluded Head of Audi Motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “This track probably isn’t ideal for our car, but it’s part of the World Championship and we’re going to make the best of it. On the first qualifying laps, we were on a par with Toyota. But afterwards the tires on our cars clearly degraded more heavily. That’s why Toyota is on the front row. That’s definitely not the most important thing in a 6-hour race, but it’s a bit of a pre-taste of Saturday. We’re going to battle hard for a good result.”