By Tarek Ramchani
The third edition of the FIA World Endurance Championship proved to be an exciting one. For the first time since the series launch back in 2012, three full factory teams entered the upper and elite LMP1 class. Three prestigious brands with high caliber drivers lineups battled all year long for outright glory.
The returning Audi and Toyota teams were joined by Porsche. Race fans enjoyed eight great races in 2014 with amazing battles across the globe with the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a pinnacle.
Here we will focus on Audi Sport Team Joest performances in the 2014 FIA WEC with a detailed season review.
Audi Sport Team Joest fielded a pair of factory Audi R18 e-tron quattros. The #1 Audi for 2013 FIA WEC champions Loic Duval and Tom Kristensen, they were joined by Lucas di Grassi who replaced Allan McNish. The #2 Audi was in the hands of 2012 FIA WEC champions and two-time Le Mans winners (before the start of the 2014 season) André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler.
The Prologue at Paul Ricard
The famous Paul Ricard circuit played host to the official FIA WEC test days. Audi fielded two brand new factory Audi R18 e-tron quattro with very strong performances. The R18 lead four of the five sessions but it was Porsche who set the fastest time in the 2-day tests.
Round 1: The 6 Hours of Silverstone
The "Home of British Motorsport" hosted opening round of the 2014 season. Audi Sport Team Joest started well the weekend with strong performances in all three practice sessions. Audi performed well in the qualifying session as well. The #1 R18 e-tron quattro qualified in second place, the sister #2 machine was fourth fastest.
Unfortunately on race day the Audi squad faced a very though event. The Audis started strongly the race on a very wet track, but drama came later. Accidents ended the race of both Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars. First it was the #1 Audi of Lucas di Grassi and later it was the turn of Benoît Tréluyer. The first double retirement for Audi in FIA WEC.
Round 2: The 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
Following a very unlucky and frustrating opener, the Audi team moved to Spa-Francorchamps. The challenging Belgian track hosted the second round of the 2014 FIA WEC.
As was the case in recent years, Audi Sport Team Joest entered three cars in the Belgian Ardennes. The Spa round being the very last one before the big Le Mans 24 Hours. The two regular Audi R18 e-tron quattros were joined by the #3 machine driven by Filipe Albuquerque and Marco Bonanomi.
André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler were the best Audi drivers in the qualifying session, third fastest with their #2 R18 e-tron quattro. The #1 drivers Loic Duval, Tom Kristensen and Lucas di Grassi were sixth. Filipe Albuquerque and Marco Bonanomi were seventh with the #3 car and its Le Mans aero configuration.
Harder race for the other two Audis. The #2 R18 of André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler was fifth a lap down. The #3 R18 of Filipe Albuquerque and Marco Bonanomi were sixth overall, two laps down.
With the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps over, teams and drivers were about to move to France. The Circuit de La Sarthe was about to be visited twice, first for the traditional Test Day and then the big event of the season, the famous 24-hour race.