In preparation for its 2010 Le Mans assault, Audi took its new “R15 Plus” version of the R15 TDI endurance racer to the 8 Heures du Castellet in France this weekend.
The newly-developed diesel sports car ran the entire distance without problems. On the opening lap of the 8-hour race, Allan McNish overtook the Team Oreca Matmut Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, which had started from pole position in the hands of Frenchman Stéphane Sarrazin, and on the third lap he passed the Lola-Aston Martin of Stefan Mücke.
From then on, Allan McNish and teammate Dindo Capello did not relinquish the lead. At the chequered flag, after 266 laps, the two Audi drivers held a five-lap lead from the Lola-Aston Martin of defending champion Stefan Mücke, Harold Primat and Adrian Fernandez.
The Oreca team Peugeot finished fourth after succumbing to a technical problem during the opening stages of the race.
Audi’s only unscheduled pitstop was made just seven minutes before the end of the race, when Audi Sport Team Joest switched to rain tires for safety reasons.
Audi Sport Team Joest used the Le Mans Series 2010 season opener as preparation for the 24-hour race at Le Mans on 12/13 June. In the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, as well as Sunday morning’s warm-up, the team compared different set-up configurations before selecting a version, which allowed Dindo Capello and Allan McNish to record constantly fast laps in the relatively low temperatures.
The Audi R15 TDI was almost always the fastest car in the field throughout the eight hours and also set the fastest race lap.
Audi Sport Team Joest gained important knowledge for Le Mans during the victorious race at Le Castellet, which will now be evaluated by Audi Sport in Ingolstadt and will go into fine-tuning the R15 plus.
Next on the agenda is a 30-hour test and the Le Mans dress rehearsal at the 1000-kilomtere race at Spa-Francorchamps on 9 May, which Audi Sport Team Joest will enter three Audi R15 TDI, exactly like Le Mans
For the Aston Martin 009 LMP1, Le Castellet was the second successive podium for the Aston Martin Racing factory team this year. After a faultless eight-hour race, it once again proved the pace, reliability and durability of the cars. Drivers Adrian Fernández (MX), Stefan Mücke (DE) and Harold Primat (CH) drove competitively throughout the race with the production-based Aston Martin V12-powered LMP1. Completing 261 laps and 939 miles competitively in eight hours, chassis DBR1-2/2 performed immaculately.
Early in the race, Mücke was forced into the pits with a puncture, but held second place for the remaining six hours. 40 minutes before the checkered flag, another puncture brought Fernandez into the pits for a tire change, but the #009 had a good lead over third position.
Aston Martin Racing official partner, Team Signature Plus, finished in sixth place with its 008 LMP1 car, again with a faultless run in their debut race. The Vantage GT2 of JMW Motorsport did not finish, but showed exceptional qualifying and race pace for its first outing, boding well for their future program.
1 Capello/McNish (Audi R15 TDI) 266 laps in 8h 00m 36.415s
2 Primat/Mücke/Fernandez (Lola-Aston Martin) -5 laps
3 Belicchi/Boullion/Smith (Lola-Rebellion) -5 laps
4 Panis/Lapierre/Sarrazin (Peugeot) -8 laps
5 Ayari/Andre/Duval (Oreca-AIM) -8 laps
6 Ragues/Mailleux/Ickx (Lola-Aston Martin) -10 laps
7 Leventis/Watts/Kane (Acura/Honda) -16 laps
8 Moreau/Gulliaume/Hein (Pescarolo-Judd) -16 laps
9 Erdos/Newton/Wallace (Lola-Honda) -17 laps
10 Lahaye/Nicolet (Pescarolo-Judd) -17 laps