Audi wins incident packed race in Belgium | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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Audi wins incident packed race in Belgium

2016 WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Race report
WEC, WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, audi

The no8 Audi R18 of Lucas Di Grassi, Oliver Jarvis and Loïc Duval took the chequered flag at the end of an incident packed WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.  The second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship was packed with drama from start to finish with Porsche, then Toyota and then Audi led the race with technical issues and race incidents affecting all the main contenders.

Porsche led at the start with the no1 919 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley taking point from pole position with teammate Marc Lieb in second from the two Audis, which had both passed the no6 Toyota of Mike Conway on the opening laps and two Toyotas.  The first car to hit trouble was Lieb’s Porsche when it lost the hybrid drive and slowed dramatically.  The car reappeared on track after a trip to the pits but was obviously still suffering from power issues. 

The no5 Toyota of Sebastien Buemi started to move up the field, challenging both Audis, first Treluyer in the no7 car and then Lucas di Grassi in the no8 Audi, but not after the Brazilian put up a tremendous struggle, repassing the Toyota with two wheels on the grass and then losing out on the run into the last corner as Buemi took control.

The no1 Porsche was in control of the race, with the no6 Toyota was given a drive through penalty after running into the back of the no37 SMP Racing BR01 of Victor Shaytar. However with 75 minutes of the race completed the leading Porsche slowed with a front left puncture, promoting the no5 Toyota into the lead as Hartley limped back to the pits for a replacement Michelin. 

Mark Webber took over the driving duties only for the Australian to also suffer a front left puncture a few laps into his stint.  The Porsche returned to the pits and the mechanics got to work to figure out what was causing the problem.

With a 25 second lead Buemi came in to hand over the Toyota to Anthony Davidson.  The first Full Course Yellow slowed everything down when the no95 Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim was clipped by the no28 G-Drive Gibson and the car rolled after hitting the tyre barrier.  The Dane was OK but the car and resulting debris had to be cleared before racing could resume.

A second full course yellow followed 30 minutes later to clear debris at Eau Rouge and the no7 Audi was back in the pits and pushed back in the garage, rejoining a few laps down.  A collision with the no36 Signatech Alpine at La Source caused more damage to the R18 and also a drive through penalty.

At the half way point of the race the no5 Toyota still held a healthy lead over the no8 Audi and the no 6 Toyota, with the no2 Porsche still circulating in 4th ahead of the two Rebellion R-Ones, the no13 car the lead privateer entry, which still held the lead despite contact with the no44 Manor Oreca-Nissan of Tor Graves at La Source, which resulted in Dominik Kraihamer being stranded on the apex of the corner for a long period before the Austrian could rejoin the race.

It was the no6 Toyota of Stephane Sarrazin that was the next LMP1 competitor to hit technical problems and two trips to the garage with engine issues and led to retirement of the TS050.  The sister car still led the race as Anthony Davidson handed the car over to Kazuki Nakajima.  However it wasn’t to be Toyota’s race as the no5 car started to smoke at the rear of the car with less than two hours left on the clock.  Nakajima brought the car back to the pits but engine problems forced the second Toyota into retirement, the Japanese team taking consolation that they had shown the competitiveness of the brand new 2016 car.

This promoted the no8 Audi of Oliver Jarvis into a healthy three lap lead over the no2 Porsche of Romain Dumas, with Matheo Tuscher in the no13 Rebellion holding the final overall podium position ahead of Nelson Piquet Jr in the no12 Rebellion.

A heavy crash for the no66 Ford GT of Stefan Mucke at Raidillon brought the Safety Car out on track as the German’s car was left stranded in the middle of track after hitting the barriers on the outside of the very fast corner. Mucke was extracted from the car fully conscious and talking to the team. He taken to the medical centre for routine checks as the marshals worked tirelessly to clear the debris from the track.

The race resumed for the final 30 minutes and the no8 Audi took the chequered flag two laps ahead of the no2 Porsche, with the no13 Rebellion Racing R-One taking their second overall podium in two races.

Porsche still lead the Manufacturer’s Championship with 54 points, 9 ahead of Toyota on 45 and Audi on 41.  Marc Lieb, Neel Jani and Romain Dumas hold a 13 point advantage with 43 points in the Driver’s Championship with the LMP1 Privateers Alexandre Imperatori, Dominik Kraihamer and Matheo Tuscher in second place on 30 points thanks to their two third places in the opening two rounds of the 2016 season.

Signatech Alpine Claim Dramatic LMP2 Victory

The French Signatech Alpine team of Gustavo Menezes, Nicolas Lapierre and Stephane Richelmi claimed their first class win of 2016 after Lapierre pulled off a fantastic overtaking manoeuvre to pass a GTE car and the no31 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier of Pipo Derani on the outside at Fagnes to sweep into the lead.

The no26 G-Drive Racing Oreca had started on pole position and Rene Rast set about building a small lead over the no44 Manor Oreca of Will Stevens and the no36 Signatech Alpine.  With two hours of the race completed the no44 Manor Oreca had moved ahead due to a better pitstop, with James Jakes holding a very small lead over Nathanael Berthon in the G-Drive Oreca.  The crowd was getting ready for an epic battle between the two cars but were denied when Berthon’s Oreca slowed with a puncture.

Tor Graves took over the driving duties in the no44 Manor with the no36 Signatech Alpine of Gustavo Menezes closing the gap.  Graves was tipped into a spin after a collision with the no13 Rebellion at turn one and this allowed Menezes to take the lead ahead of the recovering Manor Oreca and the no43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier of Bruno Senna in third. The no31 ESM Ligier was also in the mix and was soon challenging for the class lead.

After the Safety Car period to deal with the accident at the top of Radillion the racing resumed with no36 Signatech Alpine in the lead with  Pipo Derani in the no31 ESM Ligier in second but the Brazilian found himself in the lead as Nicolas Lapierre pitted for a splash of fuel, rejoining the track 2.5 seconds behind the ESM Ligier. 

As the two cars circulated nose to tail they came upon some backmarkers.  Derani dived left but the no67 Ford of Marino Franchitti moved across and Lapierre saw his chance.  He dived to the outside and went around both cars to take the P2 lead with just a few laps of the race remaining. 

The no36 Signatech Alpine took the chequered flag 3.5 seconds ahead of the no31 ESM Ligier, with the no45 Manor Oreca of Roberto Mehri in 3rd after he passed the no43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier of Filipe Albuquerque in the final few minutes of the race.

With a win and a fourth place each the no43 RGR Sport by Morand crew of Bruno Senna, Ricardo Gonzales and Filipe Albuquerque and the no36 Signatech Alpine trio of Nicolas Lapierre, Stephane Richelmi and Gustavo Menezes are now joint leaders in LMP2 with 37 points each.

Rigon and Bird Take Maximum Points Once Again

Davide Rigon and Sam Bird took their second straight win from pole position in the no71 Ferrari 488 GTE to make it a maximum 52 points from the opening two races of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship.

Once again it was a bitter sweet event for Ferrari as the no51 AF Corse F488 of Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado, which had been running up at the front of the PRO field with their Ferrari teammates, headed to the pits in the final 10 minutes of the race with smoke coming from the engine bay. 

The Ford GTs were having a better event but disaster struck late in the race when the no66 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT of Stefan Mucke lost control on the high speed run up Radillon.  The German’s car hit the tyre wall hard and spun across the track, spreading debris all over the circuit.  The Race Director had no choice but to deploy the Safety Car.  Mucke was taken to the medical centre and then to a local hospital for precautionary checks but was declared to be OK.

Like their Ferrari rivals it was a bitter sweet race for Ford and while the no66 car was badly damaged, the no 67 car of Marino Franchitti, Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx took the chequered flag in second place to claim the manufacturers first FIA World Endurance Championship podium.

The no97 Aston Martin racing Vantage V8 of Richie Stanaway, Fernando Rees and Johnny Adam took the third spot on the podium less than two seconds behind the no67 Ford GT, which was also a good result after the no95 Vantage of Nicki Thiim crashed heavily early in the race.

The sole Porsche 911 of GTE World Driver’s Champion Richard Lietz and his Danish teammate Michael Christensen was the final finisher in the LMGTE Pro class, three laps behind the winning Ferrari.

With a maximum 52 points the no71 Ferrari now holds a 22 point advantage over the second placed no67 Ford Chip Ganassi Ford GT and a further 10 points over the no77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche

Aston Martin’s Perfect LMGTE Am Weekend in Belgium

After starting from pole position the no98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 of Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy took the win after a race long battle with the no83 AF Corse Ferrari of Rui Aguas, Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo. 

The no83 Ferrari got ahead at the start and Aguas pulled away from the chasing pack led by Pat Long in the no88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche and Pedro Lamy in the no98 Aston Martin.  By lap 5 Lamy had got ahead of Long and was chasing hard to catch the lead Ferrari. 

90 minutes into the race the no83 Ferrari was handed the first of two drive through penalties for exceeding track limits and this put Paul Dalla Lana in the no98 Vantage in the lead and by the end of the race this had been extended to one lap.

The no50 Larbre Competition Chevrolet Corvette of Paolo Ruberti, Pierre Ragues and Yutaka Yamagishi took the final podium 33 seconds behind the no83 Ferrari which finished 1 lap behind the Aston Martin.

With one win and one second place each, just one point separates the no98 Aston Martin and the no83 Ferrari thanks to the pole position scored by Dalla Lana and Lamy in Belgium.

The next event on the FIA World Endurance Championship calendar is the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the 18/19 June.