Silverstone WEC: Audi beats Porsche to win thrilling season opener

Audi claimed victory over Porsche in a frenetic first round of the FIA WEC season at Silverstone, the #7 car of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler taking the top step of the podium.

Silverstone WEC: Audi beats Porsche to win thrilling season opener

The #7 R18 e-tron quattro ended the six-hour race 46 seconds clear of the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb and Neel Jani, whose victory chances vanished after a late front-right puncture forced them into making an extra pit-stop.

It effectively decided what had been a close battle in favour of Audi, their duel made more tense after both German marques were reduced to a single car at the end of the second hour.

The #1 Porsche suffered a dramatic exit when Brendon Hartley tripped over the #86 GTE-Am class Porsche of Michael Wainwright at Turn 2, launching the Kiwi's car onto its side as it hurtled at high speed towards the gravel trap.

Moments later, the #8 Audi, piloted by Lucas di Grassi, also ground to halt with a hybrid system malfunction and could not be restarted.

Despite being some way off the pace of its German rivals, Toyota came through to clinch the bottom step of the podium with the #6 TS050 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Stephane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi, which finished a lap down on the leaders.

The #5 car of Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima had been battling the #6 machine for third, but ended up finished well down the order after a right-rear puncture destroyed the car's bodywork, spewing debris all over the circuit and bringing out the safety car.

That left Rebellion Racing to claim fourth and fifth places, the #12 R-One machine coming home 10 laps down on the leaders and beating the sister #13 car by two laps. Both had to carve their way through from the back of the field after problems in qualifying, and never troubled the hybrid machines.

The #4 ByKolles CLM was plagued by problems and ended up 11 laps down on the best of the Rebellions.

Story of the race

Although Audi converted its front-row lockout into an early lead, Lotterer in the #7 leading Oliver Jarvis in the #8, Webber demonstrated Porsche's pace advantage by picking off both R18s inside the first 30 minutes and quickly pulling away.

The Aussie had built an advantage of more than 10 seconds by the first pitstops, and Hartley continued to press home Porsche's advantage taking over the #1 car for the second stint.

By the end of the second hour, Hartley's lead over the #7 Audi had grown to over 40 seconds when the Kiwi driver's race came to an abrupt end after the contact with Wainwright - which, combined with the demise of the #8 car, led to a full course yellow lasting more than 20 minutes.

Audi's slender advantage was reduced to zero when the #5 Toyota's puncture brought out the safety car, and once the action resumed, the #7 Audi and the #2 Porsche ran in close company for several laps, the gap between the pair ebbing and flowing as the pair threaded their way through the traffic.

Dumas, however, lost precious time for Porsche, spinning after contact with Marino Franchitti's #67 Ford GT at Club, giving the #7 a buffer of around 13 seconds when Fassler took over for the final stint.

Jani managed to reduce the gap to half a dozen seconds at the start of the final hour before Porsche's victory chances were ruined by the Swiss driver's puncture. 

Fassler made Audi's seventh and final stop with 35 minutes to go, reducing the gap to Porsche to under 10 seconds, but Jani was forced to make a late splash for fuel with 10 minutes remaining, leaving Fassler to take the chequered flag by a comfortable margin of 46 seconds.

RGR Sport, Ferrari take class wins

In the LMP2 class, it was the #43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier JS P2 of Filipe Albquerque, Bruno Senna and Ricardo Gonzalez that took the spoils on its WEC debut by 32 seconds.

The Mexican entry took the lead around half-distance, as the #31 ESM Ligier that led the early stages was delayed by a spin while Chris Cumming was at the wheel, while the polesitting #26 G-Drive Oreca lost time with a fuel pump issue and having to replace the nose late on.

Pipo Derani did enough in the closing stages to claim second in class for the #31 car, less than 10 seconds clear of Rene Rast in the #26, which had picked off the #36 Signatech Alpine of Nicolas Lapierre with 15 minutes remaining to grab the final podium spot.

Ferrari dominated the GTE Pro class, the #71 Ferrari 488 of Davide Rigon and Sam Bird leading virtually throughout to take a dominant win ahead of the #51 machine of Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado, which was forced to start last after its problems in qualifying and lost a further three minutes with an engine change stop-and-go penalty.

The #95 Aston Martin was third in class, ahead of the two Ford GTs - the #67 beating the #66 - as the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche dropped out of second with suspension problems.

A similar problem appeared to afflict the #88 Abu Dhabi Porsche, which had led for virtually the entire distance in the GTE-Am class, handing victory instead to the #83 Ferrari of Emmanuel Collard, Rui Aguas and Francois Perrodo.

Race results:

PosDriverTeamCarTimeLaps
1 Andre Lotterer 
Benoit Tréluyer 
Marcel Fassler 
Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro '16 6:01:06.963 194
2 GermanyMarc Lieb 
FranceRomain Dumas 
SwitzerlandNeel Jani 
Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid '16

+46.065

194
3 JapanKamui Kobayashi 
United KingdomMike Conway 
FranceStéphane Sarrazin 
Toyota Racing Toyota TS050 HYBRID +1 lap 193
4 SwitzerlandAlexandre Imperatori 
SwitzerlandMatheo Tuscher 
AustriaDominik Kraihamer 
Rebellion Racing Rebellion R-One +11 laps 183
5 BrazilNelson Piquet Jr. 
GermanyNick Heidfeld 
FranceNicolas Prost 
Rebellion Racing Rebellion R-One +13 laps 181
6 MexicoRicardo Gonzalez 
PortugalFilipe Albuquerque 
BrazilBruno Senna 
RGR Sport by Morand Ligier JS P2 +15 laps 179
7 United KingdomRyan Dalziel 
BrazilPipo Derani 
CanadaChris Cumming 
Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P2 +15 laps 179
8 RussiaRoman Rusinov 
GermanyRené Rast 
FranceNathanael Berthon 
G-Drive Racing ORECA 05 +15 laps 179
9 FranceNicolas Lapierre 
United StatesGustavo Menezes 
Stéphane Richelmi 
Signatech Alpine A460 +16 laps 178
10 United KingdomJonny Kane 
United KingdomNick Leventis 
United KingdomDanny Watts 
Strakka Racing Gibson 015S +17 laps 177
11 SpainRoberto Merhi 
United KingdomMatt Rao 
United KingdomRichard Bradley 
Manor ORECA 05 +17 laps 177
12 FranceNelson Panciatici 
ChinaHo-Pin Tung 
ChinaDavid Cheng 
Baxi DC Racing Alpine Alpine A460 +18 laps 176
13 RussiaVitaly Petrov 
RussiaKirill Ladygin 
RussiaViktor Shaytar 
SMP Racing BR Engineering BR01 +18 laps 176
14 United StatesScott Sharp 
United StatesEd Brown 
United StatesJohannes van Overbeek 
Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P2 +19 laps 175
15 United KingdomJames Rossiter 
United KingdomOliver Webb 
SwitzerlandSimon Trummer 
ByKOLLES Racing Team CLM P1/01 +22 laps 172
16 FranceNicolas Minassian 
ItalyMaurizio Mediani 
SMP Racing BR Engineering BR01 +23 laps 171
17 United KingdomAnthony Davidson 
JapanKazuki Nakajima 
SwitzerlandSébastien Buemi 
Toyota Racing Toyota TS050 HYBRID +24 laps 170
18 ItalyDavide Rigon 
United KingdomSam Bird 
AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE +27 laps 167
19 ItalyGianmaria Bruni 
United KingdomJames Calado 
AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE +28 laps 166
20 DenmarkNicki Thiim 
DenmarkMarco Sorensen 
United KingdomDarren Turner 
Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 +28 laps 166
21 United KingdomAndy Priaulx 
United KingdomMarino Franchitti 
United KingdomHarry Tincknell 
Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT '16 +29 laps 165
22 United StatesBilly Johnson 
FranceOlivier Pla 
GermanyStefan Mücke 
Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT '16 +29 laps 165
23 FranceEmmanuel Collard 
PortugalRui Aguas 
FranceFrançois Perrodo 
AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia +31 laps 163
24 PortugalPedro Lamy 
CanadaPaul Dalla Lana 
AustriaMathias Lauda 
Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 +32 laps 162
25 ItalyPaolo Ruberti 
JapanYutaka Yamagishi 
FrancePierre Ragues 
Larbre Compétition Chevrolet Corvette C7 GT3 +33 laps 161
26 AustriaRichard Lietz 
DenmarkMichael Christensen 
Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR +40 laps 154
27 GermanyChristian Ried 
SwitzerlandJoel Camathias 
GermanyWolf Henzler 
KCMG Porsche 911 RSR +40 laps 154
28 United Arab EmiratesKhaled Al Qubaisi 
DenmarkDavid Heinemeier Hansson
AustriaKlaus Bachler 
Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR +41 laps 153
R Richie Stanaway 
Fernando Rees 
Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8   151
R Tor Graves 
Will Stevens 
James Jakes 
Manor ORECA 05   129
R Mark Webber 
Brendon Hartley 
Timo Bernhard 
Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid '16   70
R Loic Duval 
Oliver Jarvis 
Lucas di Grassi 
Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro '16   69
R Mike Wainwright 
Adam Carroll 
Ben Barker 
Gulf Racing UK Porsche 911 RSR   56
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