No car in the top World Endurance Championship LMP1-H class went the entire 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps trouble-free. Fortunately, the No. 8 Audi’s biggest problem was relatively minor. Joining it in the top three was a limping Porsche and a car in the slower, non-manufacturer LMP1 class.
That’s right: only one car with a functioning hybrid system actually finished in the overall top three despite the WEC’s top class being entirely comprised of crazy hybrid prototypes.
The No. 2 Porsche 919's hybrid system failed at the start of the race, but it came in second anyway. It had around half the power it would usually have, but its drivers kept turning laps.
The third-place overall finisher wasn’t in the top LMP1-H class. It was the No. 13 non-manufacturer, non-hybrid LMP1 of Rebellion Racing, which claimed its best ever finish.
For a final shakedown before Le Mans, the top teams of Toyota, Porsche and Audi found no shortage of items to work on before June—some of which may involve the nut behind the wheel.
Here’s the run-down of major problems that plagued the six cars in the top LMP1-H category:
- No. 8 Audi Sport Team Joest R18 - 1st overall and in class: Telemetry issues near the end of the race. Swapped rear tail in last hour.
- No. 2 Porsche Team 919 - 2nd overall and in class: Hybrid system quit functioning in first thirty minutes of the race.
- No. 7 Audi Sport Team Joest R18 - 5th overall, 3rd in class: Damage to front of the car’s underbody. Temperature issues. Collision with the No. 36 Signatech Alpine car in Hour 4. Persistent issues with understeer (but that just means it’s like Audi’s road cars). Spun into wall in last hour of race after cutting in front of the No. 43 RGR Sport by Morand LMP2.
- No. 5 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 - 26th overall, 4th in class: Damage to side of car after halfway point. Engine blew with just over two hours left. Returned to track using hybrid power only to take checkered flag.
- No. 1 Porsche Team 919 - 27th overall, 5th in class: Two left front tire punctures in a row in Hour 2. Front axle gearbox problem in Hour 3. Spun by Mark Webber.
- No. 6 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 - 32nd overall, 6th in class: Collision with No. 37 LMP2 of SMP Racing. Oil leak just after the halfway point. Retired shortly afterwards after electronics failure damaged the engine.
Yikes. This amount of top-level carnage is almost unheard-of for a modern endurance race.
Of the three teams, it’s hard not to appreciate what Toyota did at the end. The No. 5 car went back out for a late-race limp using hybrid power only. The car stopped just after the finish line, but they got a final lap in under the checkered flag, so they were classified as a finisher and won championship points.
No. 8's win today is Audi’s first of the WEC season after getting disqualified at Silverstone, and the first WEC win ever for Oliver Jarvis and Lucas di Grassi. The Audi wasn’t the fastest, but that didn’t matter when all the cars were busted.