#1 Audi Wins Chaotic 6 Hours of Sao Paulo

The #1 Audi team of Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer returned to their winning ways tonight as they swept to a commanding victory in the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Sao Paulo. But the story of the race never really focussed on the eventual winners as the ever growing fan base was treated to a race full of intrigue, action and bizarre moments.

Sao Paulo Audi

The promised fight for the lead between Audi and Toyota was brought to a crashing and premature end early on, as the lone TS030 was knocked off the road bare moments after the start of the race. Dominik Kraihamer in the #32 Lotus T128 lost control around Turn 3 of the Interlagos circuit, side swiping Stephane Sarrazin and ending the race for both drivers. Sarrazin made a sterling effort to rip stray pieces of carbon fibre from his #8 but could not get it restarted, and finished his race rather earlier than he would have liked.

This led to a slightly muted battle for the win as the two Audis fought amongst themselves for lap after lap. In the first few hours of the race it seemed like the win might go to the #2 R18 of Allan McNish, Loic Duval and Tom Kristensen as the Le Mans winners were relentlessly quick. But a bizarre incident involving a loose wheel bouncing on top of the car and nestling in front of the rear wing brought around two stop and go penalties that left them in second place, four laps behind their teammates.

Marcel Fassler passed the chequered flag after a gruelling 6 hours of racing to take the victory, while Toyota’s disappointing day allowed the #12 Rebellion of Nick Heidfeld, Nico Prost and Mathias Beche to take a well deserved podium in third place.

The LMP2s had an uncharacteristically quiet race as the #26 G-Drive Oreca-Nissan put in an utterly flawless performance to take the class win. The battle for second place was a tense and drawn out affair, but in the end the silver honours went to the #35 Oak Racing effort just 19 seconds ahead of the eagerly chasing Pecom team. Greaves Motorsport came fourth in their #41 Zytek Nissan ahead of the #45 Oak Racing art car, while the final #24 Oak of Alex Brundle and Olivier Pla overcame a potentially race-ending suspension issue to bring up the rear. The #25 Delta-ADR and both Lotus T128s failed to finish the race.

The GT classes once again gave us some of the most exciting moments of the evening as we saw wins for both AF Corse and Aston Martin. The Pro Ferrari 458 of Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella triumphed in a race long battle with the #97 V8 Vantage of Stefan Mucke and Darren Turner, where the Aston was rarely more than two seconds behind and often looked like a truly serious threat to the leaders.

Sao Paulo Vilander Fire

GTE Pro third and fourth were taken by the two factory Porsche entries, with the #91 finishing a lap ahead of the sister #92. The rest of the field provided much of the race’s spectacle, with both the #98 and #99 Astons being involved in collisions and the second AF Corse bursting spectacularly into flames; TV images of Toni Vilander bailing out of the raging inferno that was once his 458 Italia are sure to be shown for weeks to come.

There were more mixed emotions for Aston Martin in the GTE Am class as victory for the #96 of Stuart Hall and Jamie Campbell-Walter came at the expense of a surefire win for the #95, the car in which Allan Simonsen tragically lost his life at Le Mans. While a 1st place would have been cathartic for the all Danish Young Driver AMR team they were left, frustrated at the side of the track, by a hub failure on the rear right wheel just over an hour from the end.

This allowed Hall and Campbell-Walter to step up and take their first win of the 2013 World Endurance Championship, with the 6 Hours of Spa winners 8 Star Motorsports coming in second and the #88 Proton Competition Porsche third. Rounding out the Am order were the IMSA Matmut Porsche, Krohn Racing 458 and the problem-struck Larbre Corvette, while the #61 Am AF Corse spent most of the day facing backwards and generally pinballing around the Interlagos scenery.

So it seems like the WEC is Audi’s to lose. With four races to go it’s starting to look like it will be an internecine battle between the #1 and #2; a string of good results for tonight’s winners could yet see them trumping the LM24 victors, and only a miraculous recovery from Toyota can throw a spanner in the German endurance behemoths’ works. The next race is in three weeks time as the circus rolls into Texas for the concisely named 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas, where the whole field will be keen to either consolidate leads or make inroads into the championship.

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