Monday Motor Sport Report


WEC: Audi triumphs over Porsche in dramatic Spa

AFTER a tough see-sawing contest with Porsche for six tense hours, Audi drivers Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler had a winning gap of just 13 seconds in the World Endurance Championship at Spa-Franchorchamps in Belgium on Saturday.

In the best possible hit-out heading to Le Mans, the Audi R18 e-tron in low-downforce mode edged the Porsche 919 Hybrid shared by Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani.

Watched by 54,000 fans, the victory in the Six Hours of Spa gave the Audi drivers two WEC round wins from two races.

The Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley Porsche took third in a race that had its share of incidents as the ugly yet blindingly fast LMP1 prototypes slalomed their way past the slower GT cars.

Kiwi Hartley led early from pole but lost time with a drive-through penalty early after he overshot the Bus Stop chicane and bizarrely drove through a gap between barriers on the start/finish straight. The # 19 Porsche subsequently lost more time with a damper problem, finishing a lap down.

“Having a mechanical problem is never nice, and we lost a lot of time,” said Webber after the race. “In the first part of my double stint I didn’t quite find a good rhythm, but in the second half it was a bit better. The result is not what we were aiming for, but at least we were fighting strongly.”

The Porsche was the faster LMP1 car over a regulation stint around Spa, but the Audi was quicker when the team elected to double-stint its Michelin tyres. This was the difference between winning and losing.

The double-stinting strategy paid off in the fourth hour when Lotterer leapt ahead of the Porsche in the pits.

Porsche then tried the double-stinting ploy with Lieb, but the aggressive Treluyer regained the lead with a daring outside pass.

Jani regained the lead for Porsche in the fifth hour, but the double-stinting Audi jumped back to the front at the next round of stops.

Finally, Treluyer adventurously stayed on old tyres for the brief burst to the finish. "When they told me that I was going to keep the tyres for a third stint, I thought… oh!" said Treluyer. “But that was our chance to win and I was still able to take risks in traffic and push like hell."

The third factory Porsche shared by F1 regular Nico Hulkenberg, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber finished three laps down in sixth after losing time for body repairs after Tandy was elbowed off into a barrier by a Porsche 911 RSR driven by Kevin Estre.

Toyota endured a weekend to forget, starting Thursday when Kazuki Nakajima suffered a fractured vertebra in a heavy practice shunt in the wet, and a difficult race day did little to improve the team’s mood.

With a larger-than-expected gap to Audi and Porsche at Spa, Toyota’s race was an exercise in damage limitation with the championship fight in mind.

Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway were the leading TS040 Hybrid crew in fifth. World champions Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi suffered technical problems and finished eighth.

All teams are now focussed on the next race, the Le Mans 24 Hours classic on June 13-14.

V8 SUPERCARS: Davo’s day of karma

WILL Davison finally scored his first win for Erebus Mercedes AMG, catching and passing Craig Lowndes in the closing laps of yesterday’s 200km race at Barbagallo Raceway, near Perth.

Fan fave Lowndes looked set to notch his long-awaited 100th V8 Supercar win but fell foul of a degrading set of tyres and a determined Davison.

Davison and Lowndes started seventh and eighth on the grid and, after passing Saturday’s dominant Pepsi Max Fords, drove away from the field.

As usual, the racing in the west was all about tyre management – the circuit is savage on all compounds of tyres, particularly the softs.

Davison’s win follows being targeted by the tabloids and V8 Supercar followers for the temerity of taking exception to being turned around by James Courtney at the previous round in Tasmania.

Rather than fire back at the trolls, Davison let his driving do the talking in Perth, nursing his tyres admirably as he coolly chased down Lowndes, who clung on for second.

The clearly emotional Davison wasn’t too torn about raining on Lowndes’ parade: “I’m one of CL’s [Craig Lowndes] biggest fans and I’ve got a lot of respect for him sitting on 99 there,” Davison said. “But as much as that would have been a great headline, you don’t feel sorry for someone on 99 race wins.

“We’ve been working pretty hard for this. We wanted to do it clean. It’s very, very special for the team.”

Davison said he had been prepared to settle for second when he noticed the Red Bull Commodore struggling up front.

“I couldn’t believe when I started seeing CL have some big slides with about five or six laps to go. That actually drew me to go even smoother, just to really give us that tyre [life]. I just drove real smooth. They’re the races you dream of.”

Lowndes wasn’t too displeased with second and takes a 52-point championship lead to the next race at Winton.

"It's been a good day,” the veteran said. “Having a podium finish was obviously fantastic given where we started in sixth, so for us it was a good end to the weekend. With five laps to go I lost the rear tyres completely and just had nothing to fight with.”

Fabian Coulthard put in an outstanding drive, coming from the back to the podium after a rear-of-grid penalty went his way for a qualifying indiscretion.

Pole man Chaz Mostert was the first Ford home in fourth, with HRT pair James Courtney and Garth Tander fifth and sixth, Nissan’s James Moffat seventh, Nick Percat eighth, David Reynolds ninth and Michael Caruso rounding out the top 10.

Until an inopportune safety car intervention destroyed a number of carefully laid strategies in the last half of the race, Prodrive Ford’s Mark Winterbottom looked on track to notch his third win of the weekend, but on shagged tyres faded to 15th.

It was a forgettable day for defending champ Jamie Whincup, who was 19th after spearing off track early.

MOTO GP: Masterful Lorenzo dominates Jerez

MISSING in action for the start of this season, Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo got his act (and his head) together in Jerez on Sunday, delivering a faultless start-to-finish win – the 55th of his career – to show that he is back as a title force in 2015.

Honda’s Marc Marquez overcame a broken finger from a training crash to land a well-earned second place at the Gran Premio de España in front of 122,000 spectators, while Lorenzo’s team-mate Valentino Rossi sealed his 200th career podium with third place.

Lorenzo finished with a 5.5-second winning margin and a new lap record.

Rossi, twice a winner this year, now leads the championship by 15 points ahead of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso in second and Lorenzo.

Australian Jack Miller couldn’t reproduce the last-start form which brought him a win for Honda in the Open bike category, finishing a lonely 20th.

Moto2 was won by German Jonas Folger, while the other podium places were decided in an almost regulation Jerez last-turn contretemps. Queenslander Ant West finished 15th.

Aussie youngster Remy Gardner could do no better than 25th in another action-packed Moto3 race, won by Danny Kent in the final corner. It was Kent’s third consecutive Grand Prix win, and the first time a Brit has done the deed since Barry Sheene managed it in 500cc racing in 1977.

TARGA TASMANIA: Number five for White

LOCAL Lamborghini driver Jason White secured his fifth Targa Tasmania title in the Modern competition after a tense last-day duel south of Hobart with arch-rival, versatile rally charger Steve Glenney.

After almost 500 competitive kilometres, White went into the sixth and final day with a 74-second lead, but the flying Glenney set about reducing the gap, uncorking blistering pace in his Nissan GT-R.

After two stages he had cut the gap to 42 seconds and was closing on an improbable victory.

Struggling with mechanical issues, White managed to hold on, crossing the finish line 26 seconds clear to claim a popular win.

“We had a slipping clutch this morning, so I just had to back off a bit and manage it,” White said. “It was fairly bad and we almost thought that was the end of our 2015 targa. We were pretty sure we weren’t going to make it.

“We managed to bleed off a bit of time on each stage, but that wasn’t the plan for the final day. It was a massive relief to get to the finish – I’ve never come so close to thinking it was all over.”

White and co-driver John White also won in 2005, 2010, 2012 and 2013.

Having dropped 84 seconds with mechanical problems on day one, Glenney’s comeback was remarkable, and he finished well clear of last year’s winner, Burnie driver Jamie Vandenberg in another Nissan GT-R.

In the Showroom category for production cars, Tony Quinn led from start to finish in his McLaren 650S, ahead of the 2012 Renault Megane of Grant Denyer.

Some were surprised by TV personality Denyer’s performance, although he has a long motor sport history, including contesting the Bathurst 1000. He won several stages, and finished 38 seconds ahead of the Ford Mustang of Victorian Craig Dean.

WRC: Rally Oz adds night stage

With Rally Australia just over four months away, organisers have announced a night stage and three new stages –  plus a visit to the famous Pub With No Beer –promising to add more spice to the World Rally Championship round.

The proposed route changes for the Coffs Harbour-based 10th round of the FIA WRC at from September 10-13 are intended to provide a tougher challenge for the world’s fastest rally drivers and more for spectators to look at.

The rally route for the 24th Rally Australia, subject to official approval, will offer similar overall competitive and liaison distances totalling 922 kilometres, but with a longer day on Saturday and a shorter one on Sunday to allow a noon start for the rally-ending, globally-televised Wedding Bells stage.

Located around 80km south of rally headquarters at Coffs Harbour’s Opal Cove Resort, the stages are in the same region as last year’s 49km Nambucca test, voted by drivers as one of the WRC’s best.

“Nambucca remains in the itinerary on Saturday, but the new stages of Utungun, Bakers Creek and Northbank although shorter will be an even bigger test for drivers… They are fast, technical, set in magnificent countryside and truly some of the best roads in the rally world,” the event’s sporting director, Adrian Stafford, said.

A bonus for Friday spectators will be two regroups (stopovers) by competitors in Taylors Arm, a little-known hamlet who’s pub was immortalised in a popular folk ballad by the late country singing legend Slim Dusty.

Saturday’s five stages conclude with a night run through the 7.94 km Valla, giving spectators a chance to experience one of the most traditional, but now rare, elements of rallying.

Sunday’s itinerary includes another new stage, Settles Road. The 6.1km sprint replaces the 30km Shipmans, which was deleted after feedback from competitors in 2014.

Wedding Bells will retain its popular Rally Village, water splash and jump.

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