Audi are World Champions !Over 35,000 visitors to Silverstone witnessed Audi being crowned as the inaugural FIA World Endurance Manufacturer Champions as they claimed a first and third placed finish at the 6 Hours of Silverstone.
Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoit Tréluyer in the nr1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, followed up their victory at the 24 Heures du Mans in June with a win at the Home of British Motor Racing. However they had to fight hard as they were pushed all the way to the chequered flag by the Toyota Racing TS030 of Alex Wurz, Kazuki Nakajima and Nicolas Lapierre, who provided the large crowd with a sporting spectacle of the highest order. The nr2 Audi R18 Ultra of Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen was third after a slow puncture forced the team to make an unscheduled pitstop during the race.
The nr13 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota of Andrea Belicchi and Harold Primat took the top honours in the LMP1 Privateer Class but were nearly beaten to the chequered flag by the nr21 Strakka Racing HPD-Honda of Danny Watts, who closed the gap to just 0.627 seconds as the two cars crossed the line after 360 minutes of racing.
Silverstone based team ADR-Delta took the win in the LMP2 category, with the nr25 Oreca-Nissan of John Martin, Tor Graves and Jan Charouz taking the win just 5.6 seconds ahead of Le Mans and Sebring winners Enzo Potolicchio, Ryan Dalziel and Stephane Sarrazin in the nr44 Starworks Motorsports HPD-Honda, with the nr26 Signatech Nissan Oreca-Nissan of Pierre Ragues, Nelson Panciatici and Roman Rusinov finishing a close 3rd.
It was drama all the way in the opening hour of the race. The nr7 Toyota TS030 of Alex Wurz got a good start to move ahead of the nr2 Audi R18 ultra of Tom Kristensen at the first corner, with the Austrian then tracking the nr1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Andre Lotterer for the next eleven laps before taking the lead when the lead car got stuck behind some back markers. Wurz then opened up a 10 second lead before pitting for fuel on lap 22. The Audis went four laps further before refuelling on laps 26 and 27 respectively and the opening hour ended with the nr7 Toyota holding a 14.3 second lead with 39 laps completed.
The LMP2 lead car was the nr44 Starworks Motorsports HPD of Stephane Sarrazin took the lead on the opening lap after the nr42 Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan of Alex Brundle had to take avoiding action at the first corner when Peter Dumbreck’s JRM got out of shape. Sarrazin ended the opening hour 7 seconds ahead of John Martin in the nr25 ADR-Delta Oreca-Nissan, with Pierre Kaffer in 3rd in the nr49 Pecom Racing Oreca-Nissan.
A safety car to recover the stricken nr32 Lotus, which had pulled off with smoke coming from the engine bay, bunched the field. The Toyota TS030 of Kazuki Nakajima continued to head the 35 car field ahead of the two Audi R18s with Benoit Tréluyer in the nr1 Audi in second place and Allan McNish in the nr2 Audi in third but McNish was forced to make an unscheduled pitstop on lap 61 due to a slow puncture.
The Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota’s of Nicolas Prost and Harold Primat held a 1-2 in the LMP1 Privateer battle, well ahead of the JRM HPD-Honda of Karun Chandhok and the nr21 Strakka Racing HPD-Honda.
A Stop-Go penalty for the nr1 Audi didn’t stop the R18 e-tron ending the fourth hour in the lead of the 6 Hours of Silverstone but the gap to the Toyota TS0303 was just 21 seconds after 240 minutes of racing. The penalty was imposed after the Audi collided with the nr57 Krohn Racing Ferrari in the third hour. The LMP1 Privateer battle changed after the nr12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota was also given a Stop-Go also for a collision with the nr57 Ferrari in a separate incident. After the visit to the pitlane Neel Jani rejoined in 7th overall with the nr13 Rebellion Lola of Andrea Belicchi taking the lead.
The penultimate hour of the 6 Hours of Silverstone saw the Audi-Toyota battle continue with 43 seconds separating Andrea Lotterer and Alex Wurz after 300 minutes of racing. A safety car period to recover the stricken nr23 Signatech Nissan of Jordan Tresson, who had crashed at the start of the Hangar Straight, failed to close the gap between the two lead cars as they were separated behind separate safety cars. The nr2 Audi R18 Ultra of Tom Kristensen was lying in third as the hour closed.
The nr13 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota was still the top LMP1 Privateer with the nr25 ADR-Delta Oreca continuing to lead the LMP2 class with Jan Charouz taking over from Tor Graves.
The final hour saw the positions remain the same after the final pitstops and the chequered flag waved to confirm Audi as World Champions as Andre Lotterer crossed the line. Meanwhile Danny Watts in the nr21 Strakka Racing HPD was closing the gap to the nr13 Rebellion Racing Lola but Andrea Belicchi held on to cross the line to secure the top spot in the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP1 Private Teams. Jan Charouz scored the first LMP2 win of the year for the Silverstone based ADR-Delta team to the delight of the team members who lined the pitwall.
Gerard Neveu, CEO of the FIA WEC, said: “It has been a great weekend, much more than we expected. A large crowd of 35,000 people saw some great racing between Audi and Toyota, and the races in the LMP2 and GTE categories were just incredible. The ambience around the paddock was electric, there was a real buzz; Silverstone is a fantastic place to hold a World Endurance Championship event and we are already looking forward to 2013, which will be huge. Now we looking forward to the next event in Brazil, the 6 Hours of Sao Paolo. Like Silverstone, Interlagos is one of the most famous race tracks in the world and we will have local drivers and local flavour to provide another very exciting event on the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship calendar.”