Battling adverse weather and strong challenges from both Porsche and Toyota, Audi Sport Team Joest claimed a 1-2 sweep in Saturday’s Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas, the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Marcel Fassler took the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro to back-to-back victories in LMP1-H, cruising to a 53-second margin over its sister No. 1 entry of Lucas Di Grassi, which made a late-race charge to finish second.
The result for Fassler and co-drivers Benoit Treluyer and Andre Lotterer sees Audi retake the lead in the LMP1 Manufacturers’ championship over Toyota, which completed the podium with its No. 8 entry of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Lapierre in third.
Buemi slipped to fourth in the closing stages but benefited from power issues for the No. 14 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Marc Lieb, who was well positioned to give Porsche its first LMP1 win until problems hit in the final hour.
Lieb managed to bring the Porsche home in fourth, with the sister No. 20 car of Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley completing the top-five overall and in class.
While the race started in dry conditions, heavy rain drenched the 3.427-mile circuit in the second hour, which resulted in a number of cars spinning, including both Toyotas and Porsches, prior to a red flag being called.
The race resumed 50 minutes later, with the No. 2 Audi losing the top spot to the No. 14 Porsche, which shined in the wet-to-dry changing conditions.
All three manufacturers led portions of the race, including a dominant opening stint by pole-sitter Buemi, prior to the rain deluge.
Audi, meanwhile, walked away with maximum points, with a 27-point lead in the manufacturer’s title race heading into next month’s Six Hours of Fuji. Toyota’s Davidson, Buemi and Lapierre hold onto the lead in the drivers’ championship.
Rebellion Racing claimed class honors in LMP1-L, following a dominant run for the No. 12 Rebellion R-One Toyota of Nick Heidfeld, Nicolas Prost and Mathias Beche, which finished 7th overall, eight laps back from the winning Audi.
Issues for the class pole-sitting No. 13 entry, which retired in the fourth hour, resulted in the debuting Lotus CLM P1/01 AER of Christophe Bouchut, James Rossiter and Lucas Auer finishing second in class and a respectable 15th overall.
KCMG claimed its maiden FIA WEC victory, with Richard Bradley, Matt Howson and Tsugio Matsuda taking their Oreca 03R Nissan to top honors in LMP2.
Matsuda overcame an off-course excursion with two hours to go, which dropped the Hong Kong-backed entry to third, before retaking the lead following the final round of stops with 20 minutes to go.
The Super GT star managed to rejoin 4 seconds ahead of the No. 27 SMP Racing Oreca-Nissan of Nicolas Minassian, which led the majority of the race but came home a season-best second with co-drivers Maurizio Mediani and Sergey Zlobin.
Extreme Speed Motorsports celebrated a podium finish in its FIA WEC debut, with the Ryan Dalziel, Scott Sharp and Ed Brown-driven HPD ARX-03b coming home an impressive 10th overall after a near flawless run that saw both Dalziel and Sharp lead during their stints.
Trouble struck the class pole-sitting G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan, which lost four laps after a trip to the garage with less than two hours to go, but salvaged a fourth place finish, while the No. 37 SMP Oreca-Nissan retired with mechanical issues in the fourth hour.
Circuit of The Americas reported a two-day attendance of 50,334 spectators for the Lone Star Le Mans weekend, with plans in place for the FIA WEC to return in 2015.
RESULTS: Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas