On the R18 TDI’s farewell performance Audi managed a brilliant start into the new FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). With victory by Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish the brand celebrated its tenth overall success in total at the famous Sebring 12 Hours in the U.S. state of Florida. New signing Loïc Duval completed Audi’s one-two victory together with his team-mates Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas.
Suspense through to the end: In a race that was interrupted by a total of eleven caution periods, Capello/Kristensen/McNish in the Audi R18 TDI designated as car number “2” had to work hard for their victory. Their rivals from their own team in car number “3” consistently remained within a striking distance with gaps of a few seconds in the first ten of the race’s 12 hours. The safety car repeatedly reduced the gaps of the trio at the front but Bernhard/Dumas/Duval lost four laps shortly before the end of the race due to body contact with a competitor.
At the same time, Audi Sport Team Joest kept its opponents at bay with perfect tactics. The squad set alternating pit stop intervals for its two best Audi R18 TDI cars which consistently kept their quickest rivals from HPD-Honda one lap behind the two diesel-powered sports cars. The race was dominated by heavy traffic and a large number of accidents in the field of 63 entrants but thanks to the precision-work of the drivers the victorious R18 TDI managed to cover the whole distance without any body damage.
Yet not only the tenth Audi victory at the 60th anniversary run of the Sebring 12 Hours is a milestone in the history books. Tom Kristensen as the record holder celebrated as much as his sixth personal success at the classic race in Florida, Dindo Capello his fifth and Allan McNish his fourth. Three years before, the trio had clinched Audi’s last victory to date.
The third Audi initially had perfect chances of finishing in a top position as well. André Lotterer, who had clinched the first pole position in qualifying for the new FIA World Endurance Championship for Audi, together with his team-mates Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler was the fiercest rival of the subsequent winners. Shortly before the race’s midpoint, car number “1” lost 17 laps though. A defective electrical shifting unit on the transmission forced the team to make an unscheduled repair in the tent. In the end, the three Le Mans winners from last year finished in 16th place overall and fifth in the LMP1 category of the WEC classification.
While the Audi R18 TDI in the presence of Jean Todt, the President of the FIA, delivered its successful farewell performance at Sebring, media and guests of Audi of America had the chance to get a glimpse of the future. On the fringes of the event Audi presented to them the new R18 e-tron quattro which like the new R18 ultra will be fielded as of the second WEC round on May 5 at Spa (Belgium). A week before, the new Audi A5 DTM will also be making its eagerly awaited debut at the Hockenheimring.
Quotes after the race
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “Obviously, it’s nice that after the tenth pole position for Audi at Sebring we managed to achieve the tenth victory as well. For us, it was a great start into the season and into the new FIA World Endurance Championship. We had three cars here that were running at absolutely equal speed. They allowed us to score this one-two victory. Unfortunately, there was a small problem with the third car which prevented us from having all three cars in front in the end. Still, everyone in the squad can be proud of this result.”
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “That was a pretty strenuous race. And our rivals were really close on our heels. They were a tiny bit slower than we but in the caution period they wouldn’t ease up on us. They only started having problems in the end. Those were eleven hours of hard work for us. Well done to Dindo (Capello), Tom (Kristensen) and Allan (McNish). It was a superb drive. Fortunately, we made believers out of all those who thought we’d forgotten how to drive cars. Congratulations, too, to the drivers of the other two cars. They were all at the same level. It’s a shame that car number “1” had the shifting problem. One repair stop at the tent and your race is over. The other car was a bit unfortunate in the caution periods in which we also had to act strategically. On the other hand, it had benefited from the yellow flags in the beginning. In the end, after slight body contact, they finished as the runners-up. And I’m proud of our mechanics too, who practiced a lot during the winter. A nice WEC opening victory! That motivates the whole squad.”
Dindo Capello (Audi R18 TDI #2): “Allan (McNish), Tom (Kristensen) and I have been waiting for this victory for three years. It was the right time to be back on the top of the podium. It’s a sweet success, also because we drove the Audi R18 TDI for the first time here at Sebring. Bringing the car home without any scratches in a field of 63 vehicles is no easy feat. We learned a lot last year. Today we showed that we can get through traffic without body contact in a closed car as well.”