17. September 2012
In the fifth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Sao Paulo, the Audi R18 had to admit defeat for the first time this season. The Le Mans winners Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro finished as the runners-up behind Toyota and in front of their team-mates Lucas di Grassi/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish in the Audi R18 ultra. This ended an Audi string of sports car victories which had begun in March.
With a 4.5-point advantage, the Le Mans winners traveled to the South American round and the trio are going home with 7.5 points more to their tally than their immediate rivals. At the fifth of the season’s eight races, the two sportscar concepts and the driver teams of Audi fought a remarkable battle yet again. In the early phase, Allan McNish was initially running in second position ahead of Benoît Tréluyer. After nine laps, the Frenchman overtook the Scotsman. After Tom Kristensen had taken over the number "2" R18 ultra from McNish, he spun and clearly dropped behind his brand colleague Marcel Fässler but the eight-time Le Mans winner from Denmark started a remarkable recovery. Despite having to wait at the red light in the pit lane during a caution period and dropping behind the second safety car on the track Kristensen cut his deficit in half again before the end of his stint.
Lucas di Grassi took over the R18 ultra from the Dane and on his debut for Audi showed a commanding performance. He drove without making any mistakes whatsoever throughout the weekend and also did a very good job of handling the traffic that he was not used to. At the beginning of the final stint, he achieved the fastest race lap for Audi, thus clinching third place in his first endurance race together with his team-mates, with a gap of only 14 seconds to the sister car. The podium result, in the end, meant 15 valuable points for Kristensen/McNish in the battle for the title. The gap between the two leading Audi driver teams at the top of the standings thus saw a minor increase, but with 78 points yet to be awarded in the three remaining races in Bahrain, Japan and China in the next six weeks, the title win in the drivers’ championship remains completely open. Audi already secured an early win of the manufacturers’ championship in the fourth round at Silverstone three weeks ago.*
* Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA