Audi Sport Team Joest isn’t looking past Saturday’s Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, the second stop on the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship schedule, but they are entering the race with one eye on June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Audi will have three cars at Spa, including a ‘long-tail’ version of the R18 e-tron quattro.
The team of Loïc Duval, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish, along with the team of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer will be starting with the traditional aerodynamic variant that was victorious at Sebring and at the opening round of the WEC, Silverstone. It generates optimal downforce for track types such as the 7.004-kilometer circuit at Spa.
“I grew up in Belgium and went to the track as a child,” Lotterer said. “That’s why Spa is always special for me. It’s a fast track that should be suiting our car well.”
The third Audi R18 e-tron quattro, driven by Marc Gené, Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis uses an aerodynamics package that has been optimized for the high-speed Le Mans track and can be recognized by its lengthened rear section.
“As always, Audi will be using the race at Spa as a dress rehearsal for the Le Mans 24 Hours in June,” said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Motorsport. “Spa is a race track with a character that’s completely different from Silverstone. We thoroughly reviewed the first race of the season and accomplished our tasks in order to be well prepared for the second round of the WEC.
“Fielding the Le Mans aero variant on the third vehicle that hasn’t been optimized for the lap times at Spa is an important element of the preparation for the 24-hour race.”
The team will analyze the time differences to be expected between both models on individual track sectors. In addition, practical aspects of using the second body version will be reviewed and data generated for the race at Le Mans.
Audi’s primary rival in the WEC, Toyota Racing, will also be unveiling a new look with one of its cars, as its 2013-specification TS030 hybrid will also make its race debut this weekend.
After finishing third and fourth in the Six Hours of Silverstone in April with the 2012-specification TS030 hybrid, the team will bring one updated car to Belgium.
“Spa is one of two home races for our team, along with Fuji Speedway, as it’s just 120 kilometers away from Toyota Motorsport GmbH,” said team president Yoshiaki Kinoshita. “So it is the perfect place to debut our 2013-specification car which we expect will show a performance improvement. Audi demonstrated in Silverstone that we need to make a step to regain the race-winning form we showed last year and I am confident our updated car will deliver.”
The tandem of Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima will drive the updated No. 7 car.
“Spa is very special because it’s one of the remaining race tracks where the track is built into the nature and not nature around the track,” Wurz said. “It’s a lot of up and down through the forest and it is quite a long lap.
“You have of course very famous corners like Eau Rouge or Blanchimont, but you have also a great history of racing, good and bad. I lost one of my heroes in Spa, Stefan Bellof, who crashed in Eau Rouge. All of this makes the track special for a driver. It’s quite heroic to win a race there and that’s why I love it.”
Following their podium at Silverstone, the No. 8 line-up of Anthony Davidson, Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi will again participate with a 2012-specification car.
The updated TS030 features modifications to chassis and powertrain, with increased performance, reliability and serviceability the priorities.
A revised aerodynamic package, including an updated monocoque, delivers improved performance whilst minimizing the impact of updated regulations in 2013 which increase the minimum weight for manufacturer LMP1 cars.
Rebellion Racing will have both its No. 12 and No. 13 Lola B12/60 cars in the field and the No. 21 Strakka Racing HPD ARX-03c—a car identical to the one Muscle Milk Pickett Racing runs the American Le Mans Series—will round out the LMP1 field.
Once again Chris Dyson will be sharing the driving duties of the No. 41 Greaves Motorsports Zytek Z11SN Nissan in the LMP2 class. Dyson will join Tom Kimber-Smith and fellow American Michael Marsal in the car, making the team the only one in the field with two drivers from the United States. The team finished fifth in the LMP2 class at Silverstone.