The 6 Hours of Fuji have never before been as thrilling as this year. In round seven of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Audi, Porsche and Toyota battled for 6 hours, separated by mere seconds. For five hours, Audi was leading the race, lacking only 1.4 seconds in the end.
Lucas di Grassi/Loïc Duval/Oliver Jarvis (BR/F/GB) showed a strong performance in Japan. On the race track at Fuji, the Audi drivers started from pole position for the second time this season. Following six hard-fought hours in the race with the number 6 Toyota and the number 1 Porsche, the Audi driver team had to admit defeat by a very narrow margin – Loïc Duval lacking only 1.4 seconds in the end. “Our three drivers showed a brilliant performance,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “We battled up until the end. When Toyota, for the last stop, were able to benefit from the strategic advantage of pitting late, and chose not to change tires, they took the lead for the first time. Loïc Duval did everything to recover the top spot, almost making up a 12-second deficit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough but, once again, we saw fascinating endurance racing.”
On clinching second place in Japan, the driver trio of Audi Sport Team Joest made another step forwards in the Championship classification as well: di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis have made up nine points and, in second place of the standings, are now trailing the leaders, Romain Dumas/Neel Jani/Marc Lieb, by 28.5 points.
Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer in the sister car suffered a setback. Tréluyer was in position four when the motor generator unit (MGU) of the hybrid system on the number 7 Audi R18 failed on lap 18. In order to be able to continue driving, Audi Sport Team Joest had to remove the front drive shafts. Marcel Fässler subsequently resumed the race, while Audi consulted with the FIA WEC to clarify the situation with respect to the technical regulations. However, according to the Technical Stewards, the LMP race car no longer complied with the homologation rules. Consequently, Audi withdrew the car. “Obviously, that’s a real shame,” said Dr. Ullrich. “Because the squad demonstrated a tremendous spirit and did everything to make a central idea of endurance racing reality, which is to finish even under circumstances like these.”
Stefan Dreyer, Head of LMP of Audi Sport, said: “Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval and Oliver Jarvis showed a tremendous fighting spirit and were beaten by an incredibly narrow margin: a sincere thank you for this superb team performance on site, in Neuburg an der Donau and in Neckarsulm. Unfortunately, our number 7 suffered a setback once more due to a technical issue. I’m very sorry for our guys that this happened. We’re hoping to be in contention for victory again in the next race, and to be the front runners then.”
Round eight of nine this season is coming up in just three weeks’ time. On November 6, the FIA WEC will be held at Shanghai in China – Audi’s largest market.
1 Conway/Kobayashi/Sarrazin (Toyota) 244 laps
2 Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (Audi R18) +1.439s
3 Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (Porsche) +17.339s
4 Buemi/Davidson/Nakajima (Toyota) +53.779s
5 Dumas/Jani/Lieb (Porsche) –1 lap
6 Imperatori/Kraihamer/Tuscher (Rebellion) –15 laps
7 Brundle/Rusinov/Stevens (Oreca-Nissan) –21 laps
8 Albuquerque/Gonzalez/Senna (Ligier-Nissan) –21 laps
9 Lapierre/Menezes/Richelmi (Alpine) –21 laps
10 Gelael/Giovinazzi/van der Garde (Ligier-Nissan) –21 laps