Audi has broken through to claim victory in the debut of its new R18, following a competitive and incident-filled FIA World Endurance Championship Six Hours of Silverstone.
Marcel Fassler took the diesel-powered LMP1 hybrid across the line 46.065 seconds ahead of the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Neel Jani, following a series of setbacks for the Porsche in the final two hours.
The two cars ran nose-to-tail in spectacular fashion through the middle portion of the race, with Benoit Treluyer getting around Marc Lieb for the lead with three hours and 22 minutes remaining.
While the Audi remained out front, Lieb hit trouble, first with contact from the No. 67 Ford GT of Marino Franchitti, which turned him around, and then an unscheduled stop for Jani with 52 minutes remaining due to a right-front puncture.
Jani managed to close the gap in his final stint to 9 seconds, on old tires, but was forced to make a stop for a splash of fuel with 10 minutes remaining.
The win for Fassler, Treluyer and Andre Lotterer was Audi Sport Team Joest’s first since Spa 2015, also achieved by the same driving trio.
The No. 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Stephane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayshi completed the overall podium in third, benefiting by issues from three other factory LMP1 cars.
Brendon Hartley crashed out from the lead in dramatic fashion in the third hour after an making an optimistic move around the Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR of Mike Wainwright.
The incident sent the defending World Champion’s Porsche 919 into the air and nearly overturned before coming to rest in the barriers. Both Hartley and Wainwright were uninjured.
Moments later, while under the race’s only Full Course Yellow, Lucas Di Grassi’s No. 8 Audi ground to a halt on track in smoke, following hybrid failure.
Both incidents promoted the No. 5 Toyota of Kazuki Nakajima to third until the Japanese driver suffered a right-rear puncture, likely triggered by contact with a GT car, that shredded the rear of the Toyota.
It resulted in a near 15-minute safety car period for debris, which was strewn over the circuit. The Toyota rejoined after lengthy repair work to finish 17th overall.
As a result, the pair of Rebellion R-One AERs came home fourth and fifth overall, with the No. 13 car of Matheo Tuscher, Dominik Kraihamer and Alexandre Imperatori taking top honors in LMP1 Privateer.
RGR Sport by Morand, meanwhile, claimed the LMP2 class victory in the team’s debut race, with Filipe Albuquerque edging out Tequila Patron ESM’s Pipo Derani at the checkered flag.
The Mexican-backed team held control from the fourth hour, with Bruno Senna getting around the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 05 Nissan of Nathanael Berthon, which briefly stopped on track in the hands of Rene Rast.
Senna handed the wheel of the No. 43 Ligier JS P2 Nissan to Albuquerque with 1 hour and 51 minutes remaining in the lead and cruised to a 30-second victory over Derani.
Team owner/driver Ricardo Gonzalez completed the class-winning lineup alongside Senna and Albuquerque.
While ESM’s 2016 win streak came to end on Sunday, the team recorded its series-best finish in second, with Derani, Ryan Dalziel and Chris Cumming at the wheel of the No. 31 Ligier Nissan.
Rast, meanwhile, made a late pass on Nicolas Lapierre to give the G-Drive Oreca Nissan a third place finish in class, ahead of the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A460 Nissan in fourth.
Results: Six Hours of Silverstone