Audi Win as Underdogs in Shanghai

It’s not often that Audi Sport Team Joest are the underdogs in the FIA World Endurance Championship, but they had to fight for victory today as the #1 trio of Marcel Fassler, Benoit Treluyer and Andre Lotterer took the win at the 6 Hours of Shanghai.

Shanghai Audi win

From the start it was Toyota who looked strongest, with the #7 TS030 of Davidson, Buemi and Sarrazin streaking away to an early lead. Its sister car, the reduced #8 team of Wurz and Lapierre, soon passed the slow starting #1 that had qualified ahead of it, and the world settled down to watch what it thought would be a refreshingly dominant show from the Japanese duo.

And so it was until, well into the race and in sight of the end, the #7 pulled into the pits with Davidson shouting about ‘something being broken’. Something was indeed broken; the rear left suspension had gone and the car had to be retired This left Alex Wurz to try and defend his slim lead, and with half an hour to go he exited the pits for the last time barely two seconds ahead of the chasing Treluyer.

The frenchman had victory in his crosshairs; he turned his R18 e-tron Quattro up to full volume, steadily hunted down the now relatively sluggish Toyota and passed him in an inspired piece of traffic based opportunism. From there nothing could stop him and after six hours of racing he took the chequered flag to end a run of poor results for the #1.

The #2 team had been quietly circulating all afternoon, but their race plan had an ulterior motive; when they crossed the line in a distant third place they secured the points they needed to win the 2013 World Endurance Championship. The #1 on their car next year will be reward enough for having to drive carefully, and you can expect a celebratory performance at the final race in Bahrain.

LMP2 was its usual tense affair, with much of the field looking good for a podium at different points during the race, but at the end it was G-Drive who showed their skill in taking the class win. Victory for the Russian team means that the championship is still alive, but second and third places for the two primary Oak Racing teams mean that they’ll need a poor performance in the last round to lose the championship.

They were followed by G-Drive’s teammates Delta-ADR and Greaves Motorsport, who had looked very impressive and good for a champagne celebration until some late pit calls hamstrung their track position. The third Oak took 6th ahead of the lone remaining Lotus, whose garagemate had retired half way through the race. However, worst off were the otherwise lead-troubling Pecom team, whose electrical problems left them twiddling their thumbs in the pits having completed just 56 laps.

GTE Pro served up its typically competitive bevy of action, with highlights being the AF Corse/Aston Martin dogfights and the internecine battle between the two factory Porsches. In the end it was a dominant performance from Aston that gave them the win; the #97 Vantage V8 of Mucke and Turner crossing the line a bare half a second ahead of the #99 of Senna, Lamy and Stanaway.

Late race woes from the #51 and #71 Ferraris saw them drop off the podium, and their place was happily taken by a somewhat surprised looking #91 team of Bergmeister and Pilet with teammates Lieb and Lietz rounding out the Pro order. The result sets up a proper showdown in Bahrain, with all three manufacturers in with a real shout of a championship win.

The Ams fought equally hard amongst themselves around the Shanghai Circuit, and for the majority of the race it looked like #95 Aston of Poulsen, Nygaard and Thiim would run away with the victory as they swept away from the competition. But in what has been a tragic season for the all Danish team it wasn’t to be, as once again their Vantage failed just past the half way mark. The win was taken by the thoroughly deserving 8 Star in their orange Ferrari 458, repeating their success at Spa earlier in the season.

Second went to IMSA Performance Matmut who will be aiming for a championship win in three weeks, and third went to the final Aston Martin of Campbell-Walter, Hall and Adam. They were followed by the Proton Porsche, Larbre Corvette and Am AF Corse, while the Krohn Aviation Ferrari spun into retirement at the last corner with 50 laps to go.

So it’s massive congratulations to the new champions, Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval. Their outing at the Bahrain International Circuit in three weeks will almost certainly be ecstatic, while Toyota will be determined to salvage something from their rather quiet season.

But throughout the rest of the field it’s all to play for, with Oak, Aston Martin and IMSA Performance Matmut all heading to the Middle East with high hopes of a world championship in their classes. We’ll be reporting live from the whole event, so make sure to stay tuned to Speed Chills when in three weeks time we wrap up the season with the Final Round of the 2013 World Endurance Championship.