Victory for the N°1 AUDI R18 e-tron quattro/MICHELIN, as Tom Kristensen/Loïc Duval/Allan McNish secure the 2013 WEC Drivers’ title
After the torrential rain that forced the organisers to halt the recent 6 Hours of Fuji after just 16 laps, all spent behind the safety car, Audi Sport Team Joest and Toyota Motorsport GmbH were both eager to join battle once again this weekend in China.
In contrast to the conditions encountered in Japan, the 6 Hours of Shanghai was marked by clear skies and warm weather (air temperature: approximately 25°C, and track temperatures up to 30°C) which enabled the teams to produce yet another thrilling show, with the outcome only settled with less than half-an-hour remaining.
The pole-winning N°7 Toyota TS030-Hybrid of Wurz/Lapierre carved out an early lead, while the N°8 sister car – with Antony Davidson in command – engaged in a fight with André Lotterer in the N°1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro. On Lap 10, the British driver succeeded in finding a way past to ease into second place. The two Japanese prototypes then proceeded to dominate the top of the leaderboard until the eventful 143rd lap (190 laps completed in total).
After 4½ hours of racing, the N°8 Toyota TS030-Hybrid was suddenly eliminated when its front-right suspension failed under barking for Turn 6. This promoted the N°1 Audi to second spot, approximately half-a-minute behind the N°7 Toyota, thanks to a strong stint from Benoît Tréluyer in the German car, as well as to a couple of time-consuming „moments‟ for the Japanese team‟s Nicolas Lapierre while overtaking slower competitors.
With 35 minutes remaining, the race took a final decisive turn after the N°7 Toyota TS030-Hybrid had made its last refuelling stop. It re-joined the track just in front of Benoît Tréluyer in the N°1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro which was running on MICHELIN‟s soft-compound „High Temperature‟ tyres. The ensuing lap saw the German prototype pass Alexander Wurz‟s N°7 Toyota which was fitted with the same rubber.
The 2013 6 Hours of Shanghai was ultimately won by the N°1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro (Lotterer/Tréluyer/Fässler), ahead of the N°7 Toyota TS030-Hybrid (Wurz/Lapierre). The top-three was rounded off by Tom Kristensen/Loïc Duval/Allan McNish (N°2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro) who succeeded in wrapping up the 2013 Drivers‟ world title.
The Chinese race saw the LMP1 teams all favour single-stint strategies. The track was effectively very slippery early on and the lack of grip tended to speed up wear. Meanwhile, the accumulation of debris around the circuit led to the occasional slow puncture, including one each for André Lotterer (N°1 Audi, shortly before the one-hour mark), Sébastien Buemi (N°8 Toyota TS030-Hybrid, at the halfway point) and Nicolas Lapierre (N°7 Toyota, during the fifth hour).
In LMP2, Michelin's only partner team, PeCom Racing (N°49 Oreca03-Nissan), suffered an electrical issue while lying fifth in class. The problem prevented Luis Perez-Companc, Nicolas Minassian and Pierre Kaffer from playing a leading role and they ended up covering only 56 laps.
Like the LMP1 battle, the fight in the LMGTE Pro class was extremely close. AF Corse's N°51 and N°71 Ferrari 458 Italias and Aston Martin Racing‟s Vantage V8s all figured strongly early on, while Porsche AG Team Manthey's two Porsche 911 RSRs kept up the pressure all the way to the chequered flag. The reliability of the German cars was rewarded with a podium finish for Bergmeister/Pilet (N°91) behind the N°97 and N°99 Aston Martins of winners Darren Turner/Stefan Mücke and Pedro Lamy/Bruno Senna . The LMGTE Pro world titles will now be settled when the FIA World Endurance Championship convenes for the last time this year in Bahrain.
Last but by no means least, the N°81 Ferrari 458 Italia run by 8 Star Motorsports (Potolicchio/Aguas/Rigon) took the top prize in LMGTE Am, ahead of the N°76 Porsche 911 GT3 (IMSA Performance Matmut, Narac/Vernay/Palttala) and the N°96 Aston Martin Vantage of Campbell-Walter/Adam/Hall.
Congratulations to Audi Sport Team Joest on adding the WEC Drivers‟ crown to its 2013 Manufacturers' title.
Bravo to Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish, whose speed is a secret to nobody, but also to the N°2 Audi‟s youngest driver, Loïc Duval, who is also extremely competitive and reliable. He has really shown his talent this season.
The eighth and final round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship will take teams to Bahrain on November 28-30.