The first four-and-a-half hours of Saturday’s Six Hours of Shanghai saw a commanding performance from Toyota. Yet when the checkered flag flew on the on penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, it was Audi reigning supreme.
Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler combined for victory, their third of the season, while a third place finish for teammates Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval was enough for the trio to clinch the 2013 Drivers’ World Championship.
What looked to be a sure-fire win for Toyota, which ran 1-2 for much of the race, began to unravel in the fifth hour. Anthony Davidson was forced to retire his No. 8 TS030 Hybrid from the lead with suspension failure.
While it handed the lead to the sister No. 7 entry of Alex Wurz, the Austrian surrendered the top spot to Treluyer with 29 minutes to go after struggling for grip following a final fuel-only stop.
Treluyer managed to bridge out a 15.374-second margin at the end to claim an unlikely victory for Audi, which saw its No. 1 R18 e-tron quattro come back from a one-lap deficit.
“When I saw the opportunity to overtake Alex quite early in the traffic, he was quite wide because of his tires, I guess,” Treluyer explained. “He didn’t have so much grip in the slow corners. The door was a bit open. I went there and tried to pass in front of him. It was exciting.”
Wurz and co-driver Nicolas Lapierre had to settle for second on the day after suffering a puncture in the third hour that upset their tire strategy for the closing stint.
“I knew it was going to be really tough,” Wurz said. “Instantly on the out lap, I felt that it was going to be a really tough run for the money. I could not keep Ben behind me. I slid wide and I opened the door. It made his life a bit easier.”
The drivers’ title, unsurprisingly, went the way of Audi as well, with McNish, Kristensen and Duval locking up the championship with one race still to go.
McNish becomes Britain’s first sports car world champion in 21 years and the first-ever for Scotland.
“I feel massively proud of what we accomplished this year,” McNish said. “We came out the blocks fighting in the Silverstone opening race and went on to also win at Le Mans and in Texas.
“Today we drove a conservative race but I’m out to finish the season off in style in Bahrain at the end of the month.”
As a result of the No. 8 Toyota’s retirement, the No. 12 Rebellion Racing Lola B12/60 Toyota came home fourth overall.
LMP2 class honors went to the No. 26 G-Drive Racing by Delta-ADR crew of John Martin, Mike Conway and Roman Rusinov, who scored their third victory of the season.
It came after making one fewer pit stop than the competition, and also being hit by a Porsche in the third hour, which damaged the Oreca-Nissan’s rear legality panel.
“It obviously lost us 10-20 seconds [to initially repair] and each stop we kept adding tape and it just kept killing the advantage we had,” Conway said. “I was just pushing as hard as I could and the tires stayed quite well towards the end. We got the lead back and got a little gap again.”
The No. 24 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan trio of Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson, which led into the fifth hour, came home second, ahead of its sister No. 35 machine of Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez, who maintain their lead in the drivers’ championship with a third place finish in class.
It was a banner day for Aston Martin Racing, which claimed its fourth GTE-Pro class victory of the season, resulting in a swing in the title race.
The No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke took a lights-to-flag win, with the German driver edging out the sister No. 99 entry of a hard-charging Bruno Senna by just 0.568 seconds.
While leading from the pole, the No. 97 entry bridged out a nearly 25 second gap early but closed up in the latter stages of the race, thanks to a hard-charging Senna, although having to settle for second place with co-drivers Pedro Lamy and Richie Stanaway.
AMR’s 1-2 sweep in the penultimate round of the season was enough for the British manufacturer to take over the lead in the drivers, teams and manufacturers’ championships heading into the season finale in Bahrain in three weeks’ time.
“The target was the third place car, the Ferrari, and pacing ourselves to that,” Turner said of their title chase. “We sort of could see where we were with those guys and just made sure we made no mistakes and didn’t push the car too hard and put ourselves in a position where we’d be on the back foot.
“Overall, it’s nice being in that position towards the end of the race where we weren’t having to worry too much about the competition because there was that gap.”
The No. 91 Porsche AG Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Pilet completed the podium after a late-race stop for the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari of Toni Vilander, who was running in third but dropped to fifth, behind its title-contending No. 51 entry of Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella.
GTE-Am class honors went to the No. 81 8Star Motorsports Ferrari F458 Italia of Enzo Potolicchio, Rui Aguas and Davide Rigon, which claimed a commanding 1-lap class victory.
The American-entered machine took over the lead with 2 hours and 20 minutes remaining when the then-leading No. 95 Aston Martin of Kristian Poulsen ground to a halt on-track.
It marked 8Star’s second class victory of the season and pulled the team to within five points of the lead in the teams’ championship.
The No. 76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Raymond Narac, Jean-Karl Vernay and Markus Palttala came home second, ahead of the No. 96 Aston Martin of Jamie Campbell-Walter, Stuart Hall and Jonny Adam.
Campbell-Walter and Hall retain the class lead, although reduced to five points over Narac and Vernay heading into the season finale in Bahrain.