Audi Sport Team Joest has achieved another podium result at the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) season finale in China. The Le Mans-winning Audi R18 TDI, driven by Timo Bernhard and Marcel Fässler, finished the 6-hour race at Zhuhai in third place. Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen in the ‘sister car’ were forced to retire due to a collision in which they were not at fault.

As has often been the case this year, Audi Sport Team Joest lacked some good luck at Zhuhai, after both Audi R18 TDI cars showed great pace in qualifying, and at the beginning of the 6-hour race.

In qualifying on Saturday, Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Marcel Fässler (Switzerland) took grid positions three and four for Audi, in difficult hot-weather conditions. The Le Mans record winner was merely 269 thousandths of a second short of pole position, despite the fact Audi Sport Team Joest used qualifying to concentrate on fine-tuning a strong race set-up.

As early as lap one in the race, Allan McNish and Timo Bernhard managed to pass one of the two Peugeots, taking positions two and three. On lap 18, both Audi drivers also overtook the leading Peugeot of Sébastien Bourdais.

The Audi squad was not able to enjoy the one-two lead for very long though: Allan McNish went a lap down early on when the rear bodywork of the Audi R18 TDI had to be changed, due to a collision with a GT car in which McNish was an innocent party. Worse was to come after the mistake of a rival in the LMP1 class who braked too late entering Turn One, causing them to slide into the back of the R18 TDI. The impact severed a cable harness, causing a short circuit and irreparable damage to the onboard electronics of the R18 TDI. Following several unscheduled pit stop, Audi Sport Team Joest retired the car after three hours and 46 minutes.

Timo Bernhard and Marcel Fässler were running at the front of the field for a long time. However, toward the race’s midpoint the Number One Audi R18 TDI lost too much time as the tyres starting degrading much more heavily than expected during the second stint. While trying to overtake the leading Peugeot and to recover the lap lost, Marcel Fässler went into a spectacular spin in the fast final turn shortly before the end of the race. The Le Mans winner managed to regain control of the R18 TDI without hitting the barriers, securing third place in the process. After Imola and Silverstone, this marked the third podium result in the ILMC for Bernhard and Fässler.

One-two victory for the Audi R8 LMS in the GTC class

Audi scored a one-two-three success in the GTC class at Zhuhai: Audi Sport customer racing China celebrated a commanding victory in its first appearance with the Audi R8 LMS.

DTM racer Edoardo Mortara won on his GT debut, together with Hong Kong’s Darrel O’Young and Swiss driver Alexandre Imperatori. Second place went to the Audi R8 LMS fielded by Audi race experience. The Audi GT3 customer sports car will make another appearance next weekend in China at the GT race in neighboring Macau.

Quotes after the race

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport):
“In the first two hours we were absolutely part of the action at the front. Unfortunately, though, we weren’t able to convert the good speed we had into victory at the finale – and that’s no doubt disappointing for everyone in the team. With car number ‘1’ we lost a lot of time at the end of the second double-stint which we weren’t able to recover although afterward we again drove the times of the two leading Peugeot cars pretty consistently. That’s why in the end it was no longer possible to attack. Car number ‘2’ became entangled in a rear-end collision in which it was not at fault and, as a consequence, developed an electrical problem which we weren’t able to repair. That was of course disappointing.”

Timo Bernhard (Audi R18 TDI #1):
“The pace definitely existed today – as had actually been the case at all the previous races. It’s a shame because on the first stint we took the lead and after the second one we were leading for about ten seconds. Unfortunately, in the second part of Marcel’s double-stint we had to note that the tires had heavily degraded. Exactly the time we lost at that point was the time we were lacking in the end. We weren’t able to make up for that any more as the competitiveness in the ILMC is too high to be able do so. I do think though that Marcel (Fässler) and I did a good job today. The pace was good, we always managed to get through the field in a nice, clean drive.”

Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 TDI #1):

“Basically speaking, this wasn’t my weekend, unfortunately, because I was struggling a bit here. The race had started well and Timo (Bernhard) did a good job. We were really competitive. Unfortunately, the performance of the tires dropped severely during my double-stint. On the last ten laps on this tire we simply lost too much time. That’s a shame because we’re not happy with third place, even though that was obviously the maximum we could achieve today.”

Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 TDI #2):
“A frustrating end for our ‘yellow’ car. Until today it’s been a perfect weekend. The tests in wet and dry conditions, the qualifying session – everything went according to plan or even better. From the start, Allan (McNish) and Timo (Bernhard) were running really fast. But when Allan was hit in the rear by the Rebellion car, the impact apparently caused a short circuit. We had to change the battery several times but that didn’t eliminate the problem. That was a shame because we were definitely quick enough to be able to win the race – and that was clearly our goal. It’s been a character-building year.”

Allan McNish (Audi R18 TDI #2):
“I think everyone in the team did an outstanding job. That’s why it’s so disappointing that we had to give up with our Audi R18 TDI. We had really good pace, Tom (Kristensen) and I were both really pleased with the set-up. In addition, Tom drove a fantastic qualifying session. So we started into the race with a lot of self-confidence and a good feeling and immediately put pressure on our rivals from Peugeot and took the lead. Unfortunately, a GT car touched me as early as on the first stint, which meant we had to change the tail due to the regulations. But the real problem happened when I was hit in the rear by a prototype. That damaged the wiring and caused a short circuit in the car which couldn’t be repaired. I’m a little sad because I was confident that we’d be able to clinch victory here – and I wasn’t the only one in the team who had that opinion. In the future, Audi Sport will come back stronger than before, this much is sure.”

Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest):
“The season finale of the ILMC was like the previous races of the season: It started really well and in the beginning we had the impression that we were quicker than our competitors. That changed after about two hours though. At the end of the second stint we lost a lot of time but our strategy had paid off up to that point. The Peugeot cars though apparently benefited from the increasing amount of pickup on the track. In these conditions they weren’t struggling quite as much with degrading tires as we were. For car number ‘2’ the race here at Zhuhai was a mirror image of the season as well.

Allan (McNish) didn’t even notice the damage to the rear of his car after contact with the GT vehicle and in the second incident with the LMP vehicle he wasn’t able to do anything either. Afterward the race was over for Allan and Tom (Kristensen) due to a resulting electrical problem. I want to thank the team a lot for having shown outstanding morale here. All we can do now is look toward the future with optimism.”

1 Bourdais/Davidson (Peugeot) 249 laps in 6h 01m 24.879s
2 Montagny/Sarrazin (Peugeot) + 38.651s
3 Bernhard/Fässler (Audi R18 TDI) – 1 lap
4 Jani/Prost (Lola-Toyota) – 7 laps
5 Nicolet/Premat/Pla (Oak-Pescarolo-Judd) – 9 laps
6 Meyrick/Mücke/Primat (Lola-Aston Martin) – 10 laps
7 Lahaye/Moreau/Ragues (Oak-Pescarolo-Judd) – 11 laps
8 Mailleux/Ordonez/Vernay (Oreca-Nissan) – 21 laps
9 Farfus/Müller (BMW) – 28 laps
10 Priaulx/Alzen (BMW) – 29 laps

18 Mortara/O’Young/Imperatori (Audi R8 LMS) – 39 laps (1 GTC)
19 Lee/Gruber/Tak Mak (Audi R8 LMS) – 46 Rd (2 GTC)

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