WEC 6 Hours of Spa

Yesterday, I enjoyed watching the World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa.  While it wasn’t shown on TV here in the States, it was streaming online from the WEC at http://live.fiawec.com/ with the always brilliant commentary of Radio Le Mans.  I was looking forward to the race for a couple of reasons. The Audi R18 E-tron (flywheel hybrid diesel) was debuting at Spa along with the R18 Ultra (non hybrid diesel).  For US fans, NASCAR’s Brian Vickers was making his international sports car racing debut in the AF Corse-Waltrip Ferrari 458 Italia prior to racing with the team in Micheal Waltrip’s absence at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  Unfortunately Vickers didn’t get much experience, he crashed in wet conditions in the morning warmup and the damage was too extensive for the team to repair in time for the race.

I think most fans were expecting the Audi R18 E-trons to win ahead of the R18 Ultras but it didn’t turn out that way.  It turned out that the Ultra was the car to have yesterday; it was not only faster than the E-tron it was able to pull out longer stints than the E-tron.  The only exception was in wet conditions where the hybrid drive front wheels of the E-tron gave it better performance.  As the track dried, the E-tron exhibited understeer and lapped slower than the non-hybrid Ultras.  The Ultras also seemed to be able to go a few laps further each stint than the E-tron; whether it was a matter of better fuel mileage I don’t know but the understeer could also have been wearing out the front tires quicker.  There were arguments made in the closing hour for Audi to use team orders and stops to put the E-trons ahead of the Ultras for the win and all credit goes to Audi for letting the cars finish as their performance dictated.

Once again, arguments came up yesterday about diesel/gasoline equivalency in LMP1.  There are those who say that the gasoline engined cars are still handicapped by the equivalency formula and those who say that it isn’t necessarily a diesel/gasoline argument but rather a factory/privateer effort.  At this point, I tend to fall on the factory/privateer side of the argument.  The gasoline teams have been privateer efforts as opposed to full fledged factory efforts like Audi and Peugeot; they may be good teams (especially teams like Rebellion and Pescarolo) but they don’t have the money and resources of the factories.  Regardless of whether the Audi’s engine is diesel or gasoline powered, the resources of Audi are always going to make them a powerhouse.  It will be interesting to see if Toyota’s gasoline hybrid will be able to compete with Audi in the same fashion as Peugeot’s diesel cars were.  Stay tuned…

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