Monday, November 21, 2011

Third place finish for Audi at ILMC finale in China

. Monday, November 21, 2011

Audi managed a third place finish at the 6-hour race in Zhuhai, China, wrapping-up the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) season. In a somewhat disappointing result, Audi R18 TDI drivers Timo Bernhard and Marcel Fässler would reach the last step of the podium behind the first and second place Peugeots; with teammates Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen unfortunately forced to retire due to a collision (that was not their fault) earlier in the race. In brighter news though, the Audi R8 LMS did post a one-two victory at Zhuhai in the GTC series. Full report and more photos after the jump.

Ingolstadt/Zhuhai, November 13, 2011 – At the end of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) Audi Sport Team Joest achieved another podium result with the Le Mans winning Audi R18 TDI at the season finale in China. Timo Bernhard and Marcel Fässler finished the 6-hour race at Zhuhai in third place. Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen in the "sister car” were forced to retire due to a collision in which they were not at fault.

As was often the case this year, Audi Sport Team Joest was lacking the necessary bit of luck at Zhuhai after both Audi R18 TDI cars had been setting the pace at the beginning of the race. As early as on lap one Allan McNish and Timo Bernhard managed to pass one of the two Peugeots and to take over positions two and three. On lap 18 both Audi drivers also overtook the Peugeot of Sébastien Bourdais which had been leading up to that point.

The Audi squad was not able to enjoy the one-two lead for very long though: Allan McNish lost a lap early on when during the first refueling stop the rear bodywork of the Audi R18 TDI had to be exchanged as a result of contact with a GT car in which he had not been at fault. More serious consequences were caused by the mistake of a rival in the LMP1 class who made a braking mistake in front of Turn 1 and slid into the rear of the Audi that was running in front of him causing a cable harness to be severed. The resulting short circuit caused irreparable damage to the onboard electronics of the R18 TDI. Following several unscheduled pit stops Audi Sport Team Joest took the car out of the race after three hours and 46 minutes.

Timo Bernhard and Marcel Fässler were running at the front of the field for a long time. However, toward the race’s midpoint the Audi R18 TDI designated as car number "1” lost too much time since the tires started degrading much more heavily than expected during the second stint. While trying to overtake the leading Peugeot and to recover the lap that way, Marcel Fässler went into a spectacular spin in the fast finish turn shortly before the end of the race. The Le Mans winner managed to regain control of the R18 TDI without touching the track barrier and thus secured third place. After Imola and Silverstone, this marked the third joint podium result in the ILMC for Bernhard and Fässler.

One-two victory for the Audi R8 LMS in the GTC class

In the GTC class Audi recorded a one-two success at Zhuhai: Audi Sport customer racing China celebrated a commanding victory on its first appearance with the Audi R8 LMS. DTM racer Edoardo Mortara on his GT debut won together with the Hong Kong Chinese Darrel O’Young and the Swiss Alexandre Imperatori. Second place went to the Audi R8 LMS fielded by Audi race experience. The Audi GT3 customer sports car will make another appearance next weekend in China at the GT race in neighboring Macau.

Quotes after the race:

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "In the first two hours we were absolutely part of the action at the front. Unfortunately, though, we weren’t able to convert the good speed we had into victory at the finale – and that’s no doubt disappointing for everyone in the team. With car number ‘1’ we lost a lot of time at the end of the second double-stint which we weren’t able to recover although afterward we again drove the times of the two leading Peugeot cars pretty consistently. That’s why in the end it was no longer possible to attack. Car number ‘2’ became entangled in a rear-end collision in which it was not at fault and, as a consequence, developed an electrical problem which we weren’t able to repair. That was of course disappointing.”

Timo Bernhard (Audi R18 TDI #1): "The pace definitely existed today – as had actually been the case at all the previous races. It’s a shame because on the first stint we took the lead and after the second one we were leading for about ten seconds. Unfortunately, in the second part of Marcel’s double-stint we had to note that the tires had heavily degraded. Exactly the time we lost at that point was the time we were lacking in the end. We weren’t able to make up for that any more as the competitiveness in the ILMC is too high to be able do so. I do think though that Marcel (Fässler) and I did a good job today. The pace was good, we always managed to get through the field in a nice, clean drive.”

Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 TDI #1): "Basically speaking, this wasn’t my weekend, unfortunately, because I was struggling a bit here. The race had started well and Timo (Bernhard) did a good job. We were really competitive. Unfortunately, the performance of the tires dropped severely during my double-stint. On the last ten laps on this tire we simply lost too much time. That’s a shame because we’re not happy with third place, even though that was obviously the maximum we could achieve today.”

Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 TDI #2): "A frustrating end for our ‘yellow’ car. Until today it’s been a perfect weekend. The tests in wet and dry conditions, the qualifying session – everything went according to plan or even better. From the start, Allan (McNish) and Timo (Bernhard) were running really fast. But when Allan was hit in the rear by the Rebellion car, the impact apparently caused a short circuit. We had to change the battery several times but that didn’t eliminate the problem. That was a shame because we were definitely quick enough to be able to win the race – and that was clearly our goal. It’s been a character-building year.”

Allan McNish (Audi R18 TDI #2): "I think everyone in the team did an outstanding job. That’s why it’s so disappointing that we had to give up with our Audi R18 TDI. We had a really good pace, Tom (Kristensen) and I were both really pleased with the set-up. In addition, Tom drove a fantastic qualifying session. So we started into the race with a lot of self-confidence and a good feeling and immediately put pressure on our rivals from Peugeot and took the lead. Unfortunately, a GT car touched me as early as on the first stint, which meant we had to change the tail due to the regulations. But the real problem happened when I was hit in the rear by a prototype. That damaged the wiring and caused a short circuit in the car which couldn’t be repaired. I’m a little sad because I was confident that we’d be able to clinch victory here – and I wasn’t the only one in the team who had that opinion. In the future, Audi Sport will come back stronger than before, this much is sure.”

Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): "The season finale of the ILMC was like the previous races of the season: It started really well and in the beginning we had the impression that we were quicker than our competitors. That changed after about two hours though. At the end of the second stint we lost a lot of time but our strategy had paid off up to that point. The Peugeot cars though apparently benefited from the increasing amount of pickup on the track. In these conditions they weren’t struggling quite as much with degrading tires as we were. For car number ‘2’ the race here at Zhuhai was a mirror image of the season as well. Allan (McNish) didn’t even notice the damage to the rear of his car after contact with the GT vehicle and in the second incident with the LMP vehicle he wasn’t able to do anything either. Afterward the race was over for Allan and Tom (Kristensen) due to a resulting electrical problem. I want to thank the team a lot for having shown outstanding morale here. All we can do now is look toward the future with optimism.”

1 Bourdais/Davidson (Peugeot) 249 laps in 6h 01m 24.879s
2 Montagny/Sarrazin (Peugeot) + 38.651s
3 Bernhard/Fässler (Audi R18 TDI) - 1 lap
4 Jani/Prost (Lola-Toyota) - 7 laps
5 Nicolet/Premat/Pla (Oak-Pescarolo-Judd) - 9 laps
6 Meyrick/Mücke/Primat (Lola-Aston Martin) - 10 laps
7 Lahaye/Moreau/Ragues (Oak-Pescarolo-Judd) - 11 laps
8 Mailleux/Ordonez/Vernay (Oreca-Nissan) - 21 laps
9 Farfus/Müller (BMW) - 28 laps
10 Priaulx/Alzen (BMW) - 29 laps
18 Mortara/O’Young/Imperatori (Audi R8 LMS) - 39 laps (1 GTC)
19 Lee/Gruber/Tak Mak (Audi R8 LMS) - 46 Rd (2 GTC)

Source: Audi Motorsport