Back in June the FIA World Endurance Championship at the Le Mans 24 hour race Audi dominated, this weekend seemed to be no different. The fourth round of the championship had thirty-five cars compete in the series across the four different classes. LMP1, LMP2, LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am.
The Northamptonshire circuit based in the United Kingdom hosted the last European Round of the series before it travels overseas. The atmosphere from the crowd was great, there was a fantastic turnout for the series. The weather conditions over the weekend were mixed with a wet qualifying session on Saturday and race day being dry.
After qualifying on Saturday the top two places on the starting grid were taken by both Audi’s. First was the No. 1 Audi driven by Lotterer, Treluyer and Fassler, second place was the No. 2 Audi driven by McNish and Kristensen. Third position went to Toyota Racing’s Hybrid Toyota TS030 driven by Wurz, Lapierre and Nakajima.
Leading the field in the LMP2 class was Signatech Nissans Oreca O3 followed by Oak Racing’s Nissan Morgan. The AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia set the fastest qualifying time for the LMGTE Pro class. Larbre Competition’s Chevrolet Corvette C6- ZR1 was fastest in the LMGTE Am class.
The start of the six hour endurance race had thirty-four of the race cars start from the grid, with No. 32 Lotus Lola B12/80 Coupe starting from pit lane. Who joined after the rest of the field had finished the first lap of the race, after the rolling start. The first lap was a dash to get up front and lead the race. With only a few corners being completed several cars come off track and had to rejoin.
For the first twenty minutes of the race the No. 1 Audi lead ahead of the No. 7 Toyota followed by No. 2 Audi. However the Toyota made its move into first ahead of the No. 1 Audi. The Hybrid Toyota had soon pulled a one second lead ahead of the rest of the field. A further ten minutes on and the lead had jumped to 6.8 seconds. The Toyota was the first to pit on lap 22 refueling with 68.8 liters of fuel. The No. 7 Toyota entered back onto the track in third position behind both Audi’s who were yet to pit stop. Once the rest of the field had started to complete their first pit stop the Toyota driven by Wurz regained the lead which was still held by almost nine seconds at the one hour completed stage.
The leading LMP2 with under five hours remaining was the Strakka Racing No44 Honda HPD ARX 03B. No. 77 Team Felbermayr- ProtonPorsche 911 was leading his LM GTE Pro class and the No. 99 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 was leading the LMGTE Am class.
The second wave of pit stops occurred with just over four hours of the race remaining and Toyota in first position handed the car over to driver Kazuki Nakajima, Audi second and third. The No. 2 Audi had a bad pit stop whilst Mcnish took the steering wheel the team made an error whilst changing the tyres. This resulted in the team having a 1 minute 39 second pit stop which was a full twenty seconds slower than the No. 1 Audi’s Pitstop. The No. 2 Audi had to re enter the pit a few laps later for a rear tire puncture and managed to hold on to third position.
As the second hour of racing was about to go under way there were a few incidents, one involving the No. 1 Audi which caught Krohn Racings Ferrari F548 Italia which was competing in LMGTE Am, causing him to spin off track and re join without any damage to the car. The Safety car also entered the track as Weeda’s Lotus which had been abandoned on the Hangar Straight was deemed to be in a dangerous place.
After a few laps with the safety car on track the race cars were unleashed to continue the battle for first the three main contenders were the No. 7 Toyota and both Audi’s. As the safety car left the track the racers began again across the start lane and were four abreast as they fought for that first position. The safety cars had reduced the lead and bunched the field up. Mcnish’s No. 2 Audi was one lap down from the other front runners. The Hybrid Toyota unleashed its power to catapult back up into first and lead the race once again.
Eighty laps in and the No. 1 Audi was ahead taking advantage of only completing two pit stops whilst No. 2 Audi and No. 7 Toyota having done three. The other contenders in the LM P1 all only completing two pit stops each. Once the No 1 Audi has pitted the Hybrid Toyota took to the lead again with just under two seconds lead ahead of No. 1 Audi, the No. 2 Audi was still a lap behind.
At the half way stage of the race due to the Toyota completing a pit stop. The No. 1 Audi was leading the race, No. 7 Toyota second, No. 2 Audi third. Leading the LMP2 Class at the half way point was No. 24 Oak Racing Nissan Morgan. The LMGTE Pro class had No. 97 Aston Matin Racing Vantage V8. In front of the LMGTE Am class was No. 88 Team Felbermayr- Proton- Porsche 911 RSR.
The No. 1 Audi was given a stop and go penalty after its collision earlier on in the race reducing the lead to fourty seconds.
At the end of hour four Audi No. 1 was still leading by 21 seconds ahead of No. 7 Toyota. Even after the penalty which was imposed it didn’t stop Audi continuing to dominate. It was obvious to all involved that the Toyota even on top form was guzzling the fuel resulting in more pit stops, this inevitably will slow the Toyota and help clinch the win for Audi.
The last hour of the grueling race had Audi and Toyota continue to do battle with a 43 second lead. The gap had not reduced between them throughout the fourth and fifth hour. The No. 2 Audi still remained in third position. The LMP1 was class was being lead by No. 13 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota. LMGTE Pro was lead by No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari. This class was dominated by Ferrari through out the entire race. LMGTE Am was headed up by No. 88 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche.
The six hours drew to a close with 194 laps completed and as expected Audi dominated as they did at Lemans with a 1, 3 Victory. The Toyota finished second with an overall gap of just over 55 seconds. The Race win was No. 1 Audi driven by Fassler, Lotterer and Treluyer.
LMP2 was won by No. 25 ADR – Delta Oreca03 – Nissan, LMGTE Pro was won by No, 51 AF Corse Ferrai 458 Italia and the LMGTE Am class was won by No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia.
After the race Andre Lotterer in the No. 1 Audi said;
I wish the battle with Alex at the beginning had lasted longer! I tried to pass him but lost downforce and he got past me. It’s a long race and I didn’t want to risk anything and at that time of the race he was quicker than me. The car was good and I didn’t have any problems in my first two stints.
Alex Wurz No. 7 Toyota rider also said;
To get second place is a great result. This is only our second race, eight months after our first roll-out and we are fighting against a competitor who has more than a decade of experience. We have to optimize everything to win but it is fantastic to motivate even more our team. We have shown a really good pace and demonstrated the performance of our hybrid technology.