Tuesday, December 17, 2013

FIA WEC: Audi Sport Team Joest season review

By Johan Laubscher

Audi successfully defended their World Championship crowns during the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship season. Both the LMP1 manufacturers' and drivers' titles returned to the Four Rings and the Audi R18 e-tron quattro.  
Audi also celebrated their hundredth LMP victory during 2013 and Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval were crowned as the drivers' champions.

The season review has been compiled from the 2013 Audi Motorsport Blog Weekend Round Up posts. Each round has been added as was seen in the individual Weekend Round Up posts during 2013, which can be accessed via the links throughout the review below:

Round 1: 6 Hours of Silverstone

The FIA World Endurance Championship got underway at Silverstone this weekend. Two 2013 Audi R18 e-tron quattros faced off against two 2012 Toyota TS030 Hybrid cars. The two teams traded fastest times during the weekend with Toyota taking pole position. Toyota lead the race from the line but the Audis soon managed to catch and pass both cars, and continued to lead the race 1-2. The Audis maintained a front running pace, a lap ahead of the Toyotas. There was a race long in-house battle between Audi #1 and Audi #2, influenced by rain and full course yellow periods. The battle continued with multiple lead changes during the race. The race win eventually went in favour of the #2 driving crew, who took the lead in the dying minutes and led home an Audi 1-2.

Round 2: 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

The Six Hours of Spa was the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The headlines for the weekend featured the variety of cars entered by Audi and Toyota. Each entered one low downforce Le Mans specification car. The #3 Audi was the low downforce “long-tail”, whereas the #1 and #2 Audis were in the more suited high downforce specification. The Audis dominated the practice and qualifying sessions with a string of 1-2-3 results. The race itself saw a good battle between Audi and Toyota, alternating the lead on pitstops for the first four hours. The battle continued until the #7 Toyota unfortunately retired due to technical problems. In the end the race finished as an Audi 1-2-3, with the cars finishing in their number order of Audi #1 ahead of #2 and #3. 

Le Mans Test Day (Audi Sport Team Joest)

June has arrived and Le Mans fever is beginning to build. The annual Le Mans test day took place this weekend. All three race-ready Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars were present with the full line-up of nine drivers. The test day took place on Sunday following two days of scrutineering and other activities such as photography / PR work. The track action saw very fast times from the front runners, where Audi vs Toyota is the big story. The Audis topped the time sheets by the end of the first four hour session, with the #2 leading #1 and #3, in what was wet running. The most notable incident during the first session included an off for Duval in the #2, causing a lot of damage, but the car was repaired in time to take part in the second session. The afternoon session had a drying track and the lap times became very fast during the last two hours, entering the 3:25 minute bracket. By the end of the day the times saw that Audi had maintained its 1-2-3. Duval redeemed himself by setting a phenomenal lap time to close out the day, a 3:22.583 lap, 1.2 seconds clear of the 2012 pole position. The #2 lead home the #3 followed by the #1 inside the final top three.

Le Mans Test Day (Michelin tire test)

A fourth Audi R18 e-tron quattro was entered at the Le Mans Test day. The car was housed at an Audi Sport truck and tent set-up on the far side of the pits, near the pit entry, away from the team's three cars garaged at pit exit. The car was driven by Marco Bonanomi. The purpose of the fourth car was to serve as a 2014 tire test with Audi’s tire partners, Michelin. The characteristics and load carrying ability of the new 2014 tires were tested. The new tires differ from the current generation of LMP1 tires as they are narrower.

Round 3: Le Mans 24 Hours

The Le Mans 24 Hours, the showpiece of the season, was held this weekend. It was the ninetieth anniversary of the great French endurance classic. Audi Sport Team Joest entered three Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars. They continued on from the Test Day and dominated all the sessions during the week, qualifying 1-2-3 with the #2 Audi on pole. The race got underway in changeable conditions and the Toyotas displayed very good pace, moving up to second and third, before a massive crash for an Aston Martin. Tragically the news emerged that Allan Simonsen, the Aston driver, had passed away due to his injuries. He was a very popular driver who will be sorely missed by everyone: R.I.P. Allan Simonsen. The race would become one of changeable weather and many hours behind the safety car. The #1 Audi lead early but suffered crippling mechanical problems which dropped them back, they did manage to recover to fifth overall by the finish. The #3 Audi also faced problems, including a puncture which cost them two laps. This left the #2 Audi out in front being chased by two Toyotas. The lap lead remained constant for most of the race. The #3 Audi was eventually able to catch the third placed Toyota, before the Toyota suffered an accident in the Porsche Curves. Ultimately, despite changeable weather in the last two hours, the one lap lead was maintained and the #2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Kristensen / McNish / Duval came home to win Audi's twelfth overall Le Mans victory, followed by the #8 Toyota in second and the #3 Audi in third.

Round 4: 6 Hours of Sao Paulo

The FIA World Endurance Championship resumed in Brazil this weekend. Interlagos played host to round four of the championship. Audi Sport Team Joest entered two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars, both in the “short-tail” configuration. The #1 was driven by Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Treluyer, the #2 by Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval. Toyota only entered a single TS030 and topped the first practice session, followed by Audi grabbing a 1-2 during the second and third sessions. The 1-2 was maintained in qualifying, as the #1 Audi crew took pole ahead of the #2 Audi and the Toyota. Audi lead the way from the start with McNish leading. The Toyota was unfortunately retired after a crash whilst lapping a LMP2 car. LMP1 then became an Audi vs Audi in-house battle, which saw the lead alternating during the race. The race was decided when the #2 Audi lost its right rear wheel following a pitstop. Oddly enough the wheel separated from the car and bounced off the wall back onto the rear deck of the car. This incident prompted two related, but separate time penalties, the first for speeding in pitlane and the second for an unsafe pit release. They lost a considerable amount of time and their shot at victory. By the end of the six hours the #1 Audi squad were victorious ahead of their teammates in Audi #2.

Round 5: 6 Hours of Circuit of The Americas

The FIA World Endurance Championship resumed in North America this weekend, for the Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas. Audi Sport Team Joest and their two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars were entered. Their driver line-ups remained unchanged with the #1 Audi driven by Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Treluyer, and the #2 Audi by Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval. The Audis topped the two Thursday test sessions with 1-2 results, the #2 ahead of the #1 and the lone Toyota. This result was repeated during the first practice session in wet conditions on Thursday. Toyota topped the second free practice ahead of the #2 and #1, followed by Audi topping the third session with another 1-2, Audi #1 leading the way on this occasion. Qualifying saw Audi #2 taking pole ahead of Audi #1 and the Toyota in third. Audi lead from the start, but the Toyota was able to split the Audis on a restart. A massive battle ensued between the #1 Audi and the #8 Toyota, whilst the leading #2 Audi extended their lead. Fässler was eventually able to pass the Toyota. Shortly after the pass Fässler launched the car over the curbs while lapping a car, and subsequently also lost a legality panel at the rear following contact with a GT car. The #1 car lost time during the repairs for the curb and legality panel damage. Audi #2 continued to lead at the front. Audi #1 later suffered a fuse/electronics issue resulting in the car being stuck in gear and running slowly. It was a quick fix but this dropped them to fourth. Audi battled with Toyota at the front, as the #2 and #8 swapped positions on track and during pitstops, Audi was running single tire stints, whereas Toyota was double stinting. Ultimately the race was won by the #2 Audi when they double stinted their tires during the final stint, taking victory ahead of the #8 Toyota. The podium was completed with the #1 Audi in third. 

Round 6: 6 Hours of Fuji

Round six of the FIA World Endurance Championship headed to Japan for the Six Hours of Fuji. Audi Sport Team Joest arrived with their regular two-car Audi R18 e-tron quattro team. Audi was joined by Toyota who added a second TS030 Hybrid to their line-up for the race in Japan. 

The practice sessions proved to be very close. Toyota topped the first and third sessions, however Toyota’s fastest time in the first session was omitted due to a pitlane speeding violation, thus promoting the Audis to an official 1-2 classification in the first session, a result which was repeated outright in the second session. It was not all plain sailing for Audi though, as the #2 car suffered a crash during the first session, resulting in substantial damage to the rear. The damaged gearbox was replaced as well as the engine as a precautionary measure. The #2 car was repaired in time for the second session, wherein the #2 crew set the fastest time. 

Qualifying yielded another Audi pole position, as the #1 Audi of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Treluyer slotted into first place. The sister Audi #2 car of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval finished with the fourth best time, sandwiching the two Toyotas in second and third. 

Very wet conditions greeted the FIA WEC on Sunday and the race was started under safety car proceedings. Audi #1 led the way behind the safety car, ahead of Toyota #7 and Audi #2, as Toyota #8 missed the pitlane exit time to head onto the grid and was required to start from the pitlane. The cars drove behind the safety car until the red flag was called within the first thirty minutes, suspending the race whilst they waited for better conditions. 

At 13:30 local time the race was restarted with just over four hours remaining on the clock, again beginning under safety car proceedings. The leading #1 Audi pitted during the early safety car running and thus Toyota #7 led ahead of Audi #2. The #1 Audi pitted due to reported throttle response issues and the pitstop was to check the air-intake system, which revealed damage from debris. A few laps later the car was back in the pits twice more in short succession for further work, but clever pit-work by splitting the work across two pitstops ensured that  they remained on the lead lap during the safety car proceedings. 

The safety car train continued for a few more laps until the race was red flagged once more and the clock stopped at just under three hours and fifty minutes remaining. The LMP1 running order at the time of the second red flag saw Toyota #7 as the leader, ahead of Audi #2 and the Rebellion Lola in third. The #1 Audi was fourth in class, followed by the #8 Toyota, both being down in twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh overall respectively. 

Eventually the race was not restarted and called off due to the weather conditions and decreasing light. Only sixteen laps were completed during the event, all of them under safety car proceedings during the two brief periods of track running. Half points were rewarded to all of the teams based on their positions at the time of the second and final stoppage. It thus resulted in a Toyota victory with Audi #2 in second and Audi #1 fourth within LMP1. 

The points collected were enough to crown Audi as the 2013 FIA WEC manufacturers’ champions. The #2 Audi crew of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval continue to lead the LMP1 drivers’ points standings, which is still up for grabs.

Round 7: 6 Hours of Shanghai

Round seven of the FIA World Endurance Championship headed to China this weekend, hosting the Six Hours of Shanghai. Two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars from Audi Sport Team Joest faced off against two Toyota TS030 Hybrid cars. 

Two practice sessions got the weekend’s proceedings underway on Friday. The #2 Audi of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval set the fastest time during the first session, followed by the #1 Audi in third. Another Audi topped the time sheets during the second and final practice session. This time round it was the #1 Audi leading the field with Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Treluyer behind the wheel. However, as was the case with Toyota in Fuji, the #1 Audi had its fastest time disallowed due to a pitlane speeding infringement, thus dropping to third. The amended standings for the second session saw Toyota taking a 1-2 result ahead of Audi #1 in third and Audi #2 in fourth. 

Qualifying concluded the track running on Friday. Toyota took pole position with the #7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid, ahead of the #1 Audi crew, who narrowly missed pole. The #8 Toyota took third and the #2 Audi was in fourth. An exciting race was set for Saturday, with the two factory LMP1 brands staggered on the two front rows. 

The race got underway with Toyota leading at the front. It soon became a Toyota 1-2 as the Audis were relegated to third and fourth. The two Audis continued to circulate behind the Toyotas, as the #1 Audi lead the #2 Audi. The Audis swapped positions when the #1 Audi suffered a puncture, but they were able to retake third during the race. The Audi #2 crew drove a sensible race, keeping a clear eye on the championship and collecting valuable points. 

Up front it was a Toyota battle as the team’s two cars battled for overall supremacy. The #1 Audi had recovered well and they brought themselves back into contention with the second placed Toyota. With one and a half hours to go the leading #8 Toyota suffered suspension failure and promoted the then second placed #1 Audi into the lead, the first time that an Audi had led a lap in this race. 

The battle then began to rage between the #7 Toyota and #1 Audi, with less than eighty minutes on the clock and a gap of less than a minute. The final pitstops saw Audi fueling and replacing all four tires on the #1 Audi with Benoît Treluyer behind the wheel, followed by Toyota coming in for a splash and dash, rejoining in the lead, just in front of Audi #1. The pair then battled on track and Treluyer pulled off a fantastic pass for the lead in heavy traffic. Treluyer was able to build and maintain the lead, coming home to take victory ahead of the #7 Toyota. 

The top three was rounded out with the #2 Audi, but most importantly, this third place finish was enough to crown Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval as the 2013 FIA World Endurance LMP1 drivers’ champions. Audi Sport Team Joest took the LMP1 manufacturers’ title last time out at Fuji and now the LMP1 drivers’ title has also been wrapped up, with one round to go.

Taken from Weekend Round Up - Audi Motorsport Blog (9-10/11/2013)

Round 8: 6 Hours of Bahrain

The FIA World Endurance Championship held the eighth and final round in Bahrain this weekend. Two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars from Audi Sport Team Joest faced off against two Toyota TS030 Hybrid cars.

Both the LMP1 manufacturers’ and drivers’ championships had been won in favour of Audi before the final round, thus the race in Bahrain was a straight fight between Audi and Toyota with no championships at stake.

The first free practice session got proceedings underway on Thursday afternoon. The ninety minute session concluded with the two Audis being sandwiched between the two Toyotas. Toyota #7 set the fastest time during the first free practice session, leading the two Audis ahead of their teammates in the #8 Toyota. Audi #1 was the leading R18 e-tron quattro car in second place, with drivers Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Treluyer. Audi #2 was third fastest with the newly crowned LMP1 world champions of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval.

The second session again saw Toyota leading the way at the front, but the interval between first and fourth had decreased. A total of 1.959 seconds split the top four during the first free practice session and this had come down to a mere 0.292 seconds covering the same four cars during the second session. The #8 Toyota was fastest this time, leading the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro. The top four was rounded out with the #7 Toyota in third and the #2 Audi in fourth.

The Toyota/Audi/Toyota/Audi order from the second free practice was reversed on Friday morning, as Audi #2 set the fastest time during the third and final free practice session. They were followed by the #8 Toyota in second and Audi #1 in third, ahead of the fourth placed #7 Toyota.

Qualifying was a front row lockout for Toyota and Audi was relegated to the second row of the grid, with Audi #1 qualifying in third, followed by Audi #2 in fourth. Toyota #7 had taken pole ahead of their teammates in Toyota #8.

The race got underway with the two Toyotas taking control and building a gap at the front, with the two Audis following behind them. Audi #2 with Kristensen behind the wheel was the leading Audi and Audi #1 with Treluyer was dropping back during the first stint. Audi #1 was also involved in spinning a GTE Ferrari and they received a warning for the occurrence. 

Toyota continued to lead with a 1-2 at the front with the two Audis trailing behind them. The second placed #7 Toyota unfortunately suffered retirement due to a mechanical issue. This promoted the Audis into the top three, Audi #2 leading Audi #1, the pair running behind the leading #8 Toyota.

The top three continued to circulate within a thirty second time bracket, but just before halfway the #2 Audi came to a halt and retired on the circuit, thus promoting the #1 Audi into second, half a minute behind the leading #8 Toyota. The #1 Audi was later given a drive-through penalty for passing under yellow, thus dropping them even further behind the #8 Toyota.

The race at the front of the LMP1 field came down to just the #8 Toyota and the #1 Audi, with the positions remaining the same to the flag. Toyota won the final FIA WEC race of the year, followed by Audi #1 driven by Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Treluyer. 

It was a great 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship season. Audi won the Le Mans 24 Hours, the FIA WEC LMP1 manufacturers’ title and the drivers’ title with the #2 Audi crew of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval.