The second round of the World Endurance Championship, the Six Hours of Spa, starts Sunday, and the winner is—Audi, by half-a-million euros. Audi, with its corporate budget, top-rank drivers, fleet of four brand-new cars built to take advantage of rules favoring diesels and hybrids, has practically won the race before qualifying.
With Peugeot out of endurance racing and Toyota at Spa for a photo shoot only (still recovering from a tub-destroying testing crash,) the four Audis will likely sweep the podium. There is perhaps a one-in-a-trillion chance all four Audis will break/crash/forget to show up/get kidnapped by aliens—but here in reality, the podium belongs to Audi.
Audi is bringing four never-raced cars, which some might think would give the opposition some hope. Well, think what you want; Audi’s rigorous testing schedule virtually ensures that the cars will be able to last six hours. Yes. Audi has had some unpleasant surprises at races when problems arose that didn’t show up in testing—but this time, there is no Peugeot team snapping at their heels if Audi misses a beat.
The next-fastest cars on the track are likely to be the rebodied Rebellions, perhaps the Straka or JRM Hondas—gasoline-powered all, and likely, judging from their performances at Sebring in March, far enough off the pace that Audi will have time to fix anything that breaks and still control the front of the fields.
Dome is bringing its updated S102.5, but this is a mostly untested car designed to run fast, not to last, according to the team.
In the first free practice session, the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro hybrids set first and third fastest times, with the R18 Ultras second and fourth—what a surprise. The #13 Rebellion Lola-Toyota was fifth—nearly two-and-a-half-seconds off the pace. The Dome managed seventh, 2.86 seconds slower than the Audis.
In the second practice session it was hybrids leading diesels leading everyone else. Rebellion again ran second, this time 3.23 seconds arears.
[Editor’s Note: the #30 Status GP P2 Lola B12/80 Judd crashed in the final minutes of practice and will not make the race.]
Sunday’s Six Hours of Spa should still be an exciting race—just waiting to see if one of the Audis breaks or gets taken out in traffic will add some tension, and throughout the rest of the field there should be some excellent racing. P1-bis, the gasoline portion, should be very competitive, P2 is packed with quality entries, GTE-Pro offers a Porsche-Ferrari-Aston Martin battle, and GTE-Am a Porsche-Ferrari fight with a couple Corvettes added in.
For those who can make the trip to Belgium for the weekend, tickets can be purchased online through the Spa-Francorchamps website.
In the U.S. the race might be available live on Audi-TV starting at 8:15 a.m. EDT. It might be available through various other Internet sources as well, possibly the FIA_WEC feed, depending on the viewer’s locale. Visit Le Mans.org for more information.
Fastest times in class–Second Session:
LMP1: Fässler-Lotterer-Tréluyer—No. 1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron Quattro—2:03.075
LMP2: Nicolet-Lahaye-Pla—No. 24 Oak Racing Oak Pescarolo-Judd—2:10.058
LM GTE-Pro: Lietz-Lieb (No. 77 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 997 RSR—2:19.668
LM GTE-Am: Armindo-Narac-Pons—No. 67 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 997 RSR—2:21.874