Audi Sport Team Joest R18s held down Row 1 on the starting grid, Andre Lotterer (#7) on pole with Oliver Jarvis (#8) next to him. The #1 Porsche Team 919 Hybrid entry piloted by Mark Webber started third and the #2 Porsche driven by Romain Dumas fourth. Roman Rusinov was tops in LMP2, driving the #26 G-Drive Racing-Nissan machine, followed by Pipo Derani (#11 Extreme Speed Motorsports-Nissan) and Bruno Senna (#41 RGR Sport by Morano-Nissan).
Davide Rigon was the fastest GTE Pro driver in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488. Richard Lietz (#77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911) started second in class and Stefan Moecke (#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Team US GT) third. Karl Bachler (#88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Porsche) led the GTE Am field to the green flag, ahead of Wolf Henzler (#78 KCMG Porsche).
The Audis retained the lead at the start, but Webber passed Jarvis for second less than 15 min in. GTE Pro standings remained unchanged. Jarvis led Dumas for third. Derani moved to the point in LMP2. Webber took the lead with 5 hr 32 min to go.
Porsche ran 1-2 with 4 hr left, Brendon Hartley in front of Neel Jani. The #8 Audi was slowed by mechanical difficulties with Jarvis still behind the wheel. The #7 Audi driven by Benoit Treluyer spun but continued. G-Drive continued to lead LMP2, with Rene Rast in front of the Strakka Racing Gibson-Nissan driven by Danny Watts.
Sam Bird and Rigon led GTE Pro in the #71 Ferrari, the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche pitting for repairs from second. The Ford Chip Ganassi GTs ran third and fourth.
With 2 hr to go Treluyer’s #7 Audi held the lead against stiff competition from the #2 Porsche and Dumas. Treluyer gained a cushion following contact between Dumas and Marino Franchitti in one of the Ford GTs. Toyota Gazoo Racing ran third with Stephane Sarrazin in the #6 TS050 Hybrid. Senna led LMP2.
Bird remained at the front of GTE Pro, the #95 Aston Martin running second but fading due to an unscheduled pit stop. Rui Aguas led GTE Am in an AF Corse Ferrari 458 followd by Henzler.
Lotterer, Marcel Fassler, and Treluyer crossed the finish line first (a repeat from 2015’s Silverstone contest), but post-race scrutineering revealed that the #7 Audi was not in compliance with article 3.5.6 a3 of the LMP1 Technical Regulations (thickness of the front skid block) and had been excluded from the results.
The stewards’ determination elevated the #2 Porsche 919 of Dumas, Jani, and Marc Lieb to victory in the opening race of the 2016 FIA WEC season. with the #6 Toyota (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Sarrazin) rising to second, and the #13 Rebellion Racing R-One (Alexandre Imperatori, Dominik Kraihamer, Matteo Tuscher) to third. Audi appealed the decision.
The Mexican-entered RGR Sport by Morand Ligier-Nissan driven by Filipe Albuquerque, Ricardo Gonzalez, and Senna won LMP2, ahead of the #31 ESM Ligier-Nissan of Derani, Chris Cumming, and Ryan Dalziel.
Bird and Rigon took GTE Pro honors ahead of AF Corse teammates James Calado and Gianmaria Bruni. AF Corse also topped GTE Am, the #83 Ferrari 458 Italia driven Emmanuel Collard, Francois Perrodo, and Aguas besting Aston Martin Racing’s #98 V8 Vantage driven by Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, and Matthias Lauda
The next round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship takes place at Spa-Francorchamps on May 7.
Final results, pending Audi’s appeal, can be found HERE.