Audi has delivered a thrilling premiere for its two new racing models: the R18 ultra of Romain Dumas/Loïc Duval/Marc Gené won the Spa 6 Hours, the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC. Crossing the finish line in second place were last year’s Le Mans winners Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer. They had dominated the race in the early phase with the Audi R18 e-tron quattro, the first diesel hybrid sports car in history. In the end, they had to admit defeat. The other two Audi driver teams completed the perfect 1-2-3-4 victory for the brand with the four rings.

The successful racing debut of the Audi R18 ultra and the R18 e-tron quattro marks an important milestone for Audi. In their first competition, the two vehicle concepts, in addition to their reliability, demonstrated a very balanced overall performance. The sporting results confirmed a basic agenda set by Audi – the decision in favour of two vehicle concepts – right on the cars’ first race. Major technical advantages of individual concepts can be offset by the LMP sports prototype regulations in a way that allows a thrilling competition to unfold – even though this question will have to be answered again on each of the race tracks under very different conditions.

On the wet track at Spa-Francorchamps the two hybrid sports cars initially dominated the action. André Lotterer in the number “1” R18 e-tron quattro took the lead from Tom Kristensen in the number “2” hybrid sister car after only a few laps. Lotterer gained an almost one-minute advantage over the best conventionally powered Audi R18 ultra, car number “3” driven by Marc Gené. At the end of the race’s first hour, two factors caused a preliminary decision. On a drying track, Marc Gené at the first pit stop was the only Audi to switch to slicks while the other drivers received intermediates. Consequently, Audi’s new Spanish signing was up to four seconds quicker than the rest on the 7.004-kilometer track. At the same time, the number “2” Audi R18 e-tron quattro was forced to have the hood exchanged due to a defect on the front lighting system. Tom Kristensen lost almost a minute in the process.

Thanks to the bold tyre choice, Marc Gené and Loïc Duval converted a gap of around one minute into an advantage during the course of 37 race laps. On lap 63, Duval took the lead – and car number “3” would not relinquish it again through to the finish. Gené, who is standing in for the injured Timo Bernhard as a reserve driver, thus managed a brilliant debut at Audi. After his successes in 2008 and 2011, the Spaniard is celebrating his third sports car victory at Spa.

Following behind Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer in second place were Marco Bonanomi/Oliver Jarvis in the second Audi R18 ultra. Both finished their sports car debut in the Audi factory team with a podium place.

Capello/Kristensen/McNish had to settle for an unfortunate fourth place but are not leaving Spa empty-handed. Allan McNish achieved the best time in qualifying on Friday and in the World Endurance Championship standings the Sebring winners are now ranking as the runners-up with 38 points. The new front runners are Romain Dumas and Loïc Duval with 43 points.

With the 1-2-3-4 victory at Spa, four reliable race cars, a solid driver line-up and an efficiently operating Audi Sport Team Joest, Audi managed a successful dress rehearsal for the Le Mans 24 Hours. The endurance classic will be held for the 80th time on June 16 and 17. Audi is aiming for its eleventh overall victory there.

Quotes after the race

Dieter Gass (Head of Racing Commitments): “We’re very happy with this result. On the whole, it couldn’t have gone any better, even though the situation became a bit unpredictable toward the end. We suffered punctures on two cars because obviously after the numerous accidents some sharp debris was on the track. Technically, the cars ran without any problems throughout the six hours. That was an important step in our preparation for Le Mans. I want to thank the squad after a very tough preparation period. This is the nicest reward one could wish for.”

Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “We celebrated a 1-2-3-4 victory and learned a lot with the four cars and different tyre strategies. Our four cars finished without any technical problems. Audi’s decision to opt for two concepts proved to be right. The R18 e-tron quattro is a strong car but the R18 ultra, too, has certain advantages. But there’ll be quite a few more things coming with the R18 e-tron quattro in the future. This was the first race with the hybrid car that ultimately finished in second and fourth place. ‘Well done’ to the winners Romain Dumas, Loïc Duval and Marc Gené and to Oliver Jarvis and Marco Bonanomi too, who drove their first races without making the slightest mistake. It was a good dress rehearsal for Le Mans. I want to thank the squad in these tough and very busy days.”

Loïc Duval (Audi R18 ultra #3): “Today, we experienced a surprise. This was only my second race with Audi but already my first victory. As always, there wasn’t a single problem when I’m sitting in an Audi. The conditions were very difficult in the beginning but the car was fantastic. We had no problems whatsoever. It’s a nice result for Audi to finish on positions one, two, three and four. I’m very happy to be on the very top of the podium.”

André Lotterer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): “A fantastic race for Audi with a 1-2-3-4 victory. When I was sitting in the car at the beginning of the race in the rain I particularly enjoyed the technology of the R18 e-tron quattro. Even though the technology is brand new it functioned superbly. Unfortunately, we didn’t keep the lead but we’re still in a learning phase. On the whole, though, it was a nice beginning before the really big challenge, the Le Mans 24 Hours.”

Race results
1 Dumas/Duval/Gené (Audi R18 ultra), 160 laps in 6h 00.22m708s
2 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) + 46.801s
3 Bonanomi/Jarvis (Audi R18 ultra) – 1 lap
4 Capello/Kristensen/McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) – 1 lap
5 Prost/Jani/Heidfeld (Lola-Toyota) – 4 laps
6 Belicchi/Primat (Lola-Toyota) – 5 laps
7 Leventis/Watts/Kane (HPD-Honda) – 6 laps
8 Dolan/Hancock (Zytek-Nissan) – 9 laps
9 Martin/Kerr/Graves (Oreca-Nissan) – 9 laps
10 Firth/Hughes/Hartley (Oreca-Nissan) – 9 laps

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