Silverstone WEC: Audi secure season opening victory

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The #7 Audi Sport Team Joest entry of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler secured victory at the Six Hours of Silverstone for the second consecutive season after a hard fought battle on Sunday.

The team held off the challenge of the #2 Porsche entry of Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb and Neel Jani, although the Audi was helped by a number of issues on the Porsche that included a spin at Vale after contact with the #67 Ford GT of Marino Franchitti and an additional pit stop with a puncture.

The additional pit stop cost Jani almost forty seconds after being within ten seconds of Fassler with little over an hour remaining, and although the Porsche was able to get within ten seconds of the Audi, another trip to the pits for a splash of fuel ensured a relatively straightforward run to the flag to win by 46.065s.

The early laps of the six hour race was dominated by Porsche, with the #1 of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard almost fifty seconds clear before a clash with the GTE Am car of Michael Wainwright eliminated both cars from the race.

At the same time, the #8 Audi stopped on track with terminal hybrid issues that necessitated a long full course yellow on track while the car was carefully retrieved.

The #6 Toyota Gazoo Racing entry of Stephane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi completed the podium, albeit a lap behind the race winner, but the sister #5 car lost more than forty minutes in the pits when Kazuki Nakajima suffered a right rear puncture that caused the introduction of the safety car as the flailing tyre disintegrated the back of his car.

The #5 returned to the pits, but the combination of Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson could only recover to P17 on the road, behind all of the LMP2 racers that saw the chequered flag.

The two Rebellion Racing cars finished fourth and fifth, the #13 ahead of the #12, helped by problems for the #4 ByKolles Racing entry, although despite starting the race at the back of the grid, Rebellion were soon through into the lead of the independent LMP1 class.

The debuting RGR Sport by Morand team claimed LMP2 class honours, with the team of Bruno Senna, Ricardo Gonzalez and Filipe Albuquerque ultimately winning by 32.054s from the #31 Extreme Speed Motorsports entry shared by the impressive Luis Felipe Derani, Ryan Dalziel and Christopher Cumming.

The battle for honours in the LMP2 class was as close at times as was predicted before hand, with a number of drivers taking their turns at the front, none more popular than of the Silverstone-based Strakka Racing outfit that ran first for a few laps early in the race, before ultimately dropping to fifth by the chequered flag.

The podium was completed by the #26 G-Drive Racing team of Roman Rusinov, Nathanael Berthon and Rene Rast after a late puncture denied the #36 Signatech Alpine team in the closing minutes while running in third in the hands of Nicolas Lapierre.

AF Corse secured a 1-2 finish in the GTE Pro class, with the #71 of Davide Rigon and Sam Bird converting their pole position into a comfortable victory, while the #51 of Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado had a far less comfortable afternoon.

The second AF Corse after recovering from starting at the back of the field and an early three-minute penalty for an overnight engine change to charge through the field, eventually claiming the runners-up spot ahead of the #95 Aston Martin Racing entry of Darren Turner, Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim.

Both Ford GT entries saw the chequered flag, the #67 of Franchitti, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell ahead of the sister #66 car of Stefan Mücke, Olivier Pla and Billy Johnson in fourth and fifth in class, just 1.115s apart.

AF Corse were also triumphant in GTE Am class, with the #83 of Rui Aguas, Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard finishing ahead of the rest of the field, twenty-third overall on the road.

Second place went to the #98 Aston Martin Racing entry of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda after there was heartbreak for the #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche of Klaus Bachler after a late trip to the pits with a broken front suspension while running in second place. The car returned to the track with a few minutes remaining, but ultimately finished fifth in class.

The final step on the AM podium was taken by the #50 Larbre Competition entry of Pierre Ragues, Paolo Ruberti and Yutaka Yamagishi.

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