Despite its drivers currently leading the World Championship, Audi faces an uphill battle for the remainder of the FIA WEC season, with the No. 7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro only having one new engine permitted for the final five rounds.
The German manufacturer lost two of its five allocated engines for the season as part of a penalty issued by the FIA when the engine seal on the No. 7 car from Le Mans was found to be tampered with.
It’s left the Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler-driven LMP1 entry with only two usable engines, which will be swapped between sessions to avoid facing a costly penalty for using an additional powerplant.
With an estimated total of 10,000 kms of run time on tap for the remainder of the season, and a fresh engine based on a 6,000 km lifespan, Audi Sport Team Joest technical director Ralf Jüttner admitted they’re faced with a challenging situation.
“Yeah it is a problem,” he told Sportscar365. “We have to carefully use the miles that we have on that one single new engine and we’re trying to use some sessions with older engines to not limit us in running time.
“It’s logistically a tougher workload for the crew. It’s not ideal but we’ll try to get around it with what we have.”
Jüttner confirmed the No. 7 car started this weekend with its old engine, used in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, before switching to its remaining new powerplant for Free Practice 3 and qualifying.
A similar strategy is likely to be used for the remaining rounds, in an effort to avoid reduced running time in Free Practice.
“The problem is at the beginning we did not know this would happen,” Jüttner said. “The first engine we used for Silverstone, Spa and Wednesday of Le Mans was taken apart to check. It was never thought to be used again.
“When you open it, you obviously open the seals so it’s not reusable. That’s why we only have two [engines] left.”
Lotterer, Treluyer and Fassler head into tomorrow’s round with a 23-point lead over their nearest full-season LMP1 competitors, but face a significant championship setback should they end up using an additional engine at some point.
Per a new-for-2015 rule, a three-minute stop-and-hold penalty will be issued to a car for each additional engine they use beyond the allowed five, which would effectively rule the No. 7 car out of a podium finish of a race.
According to Audi Head of LMP1 Chris Reinke, they’ll be working to avoid facing the penalty at all costs.
“I believe we’ll do everything to avoid that,” Reinke told Sportscar365. “It would be a penalty for the car and we are confident we can do without it.”