Audi Sport Team Joest locked down the front row in the first race since Porsche’s last lap victory over Toyota in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Marcel Fassler started on pole in the #7 R18, with Oliver Jarvis next door in the #8. Porsche held down Row 2 (Timo Bernhard #1, Neel Jani #2) and Toyota Racing Row 3 (Mike Conway #6, Kaz Nakajima #5). The Top 3 qualifiers in the LMP2 were Rene Rast (#23 G-Drive Racing Oreca 05-Nissan), Stephane Richelmi (#36 Signatech Alpine A460-Nissan), and Jonny Kane (#42 Strakka Racing Gibson 015S-Nissan).
Nicki Thiim put the #95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 on GTE Pro pole, topping Stefan Mucke (#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GT) and Richie Stanaway (#97 Aston). Patrick Long was quickest on the GTE Am grid (#88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR), followed by Wolf Henzler (#78 KCMG Racing Porsche) and Pedro Lamy (#98 Aston).
The #7 was running with just two drivers for this event, Benoit Treluyer out with a mountain-bike injury. The race started dry but with a large chance of rain looming. Bernhard split the Audis early in Lap 1, with Stanaway getting the better for the #66 Ford as well. Bernhard was challenging Fassler for the lead with 5 hr 35 min to go.
The battle for first continued through traffic into Turn 1 at 5:27, Bernhard briefly seizing the spot but braking too deep, nearly missing Henzler, and giving the spot back. Jani spun while trying to pass Jarvis for third 4 min later, making light contact with Mucke. Fassler pitted from the lead at with 5:10 to go.
Bernhard pitted 4 min later, Brendon Hartley taking over for the defending world champion team and emerging with the lead.
After 90 minutes Jarvis (#8 Audi) led teammate Lotterer (#7 Audi, +3.8 sec) and Hartley, the #1 Porsche slipping due to a slow tire leak. The #95 Aston Martin led GTE Pro by 4 sec over the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488. The #66 Ford GT ran third. The #67 Ford lost 9 laps after a pit fire and subsequent 23-min stop.
At the half-way mark the #2 Porsche (Jani) led the #1 by 10 sec, having moved ahead of the Audis on the timing of a full-course caution. The #8 Audi led the #7 by 4 sec in third. The #23 G-Drive entry pitted from the lead in LMP2 with a suspected gearbox problem, Signatech inheriting the top slot.
The Top 3 in GTE Pro – Mucke, Thiim, and Gianmaria Bruni (#51 Ferrari) – were covered by just 1.8 sec. The #98 Aston led GTE Am.
With 2:05 to go Bruni led GTE Pro by 2.483 sec over Thiim and 12.537 sec over Sam Bird in the #71 AF Corse sister car.
A full-course caution was in place with 50 min left. All of the leaders pitted. Bernhard led in the #1 Porsche, followed by Loic Duval (#8 Audi, +1:09.465) and Lotterer (#7 Audi). Signatech remained in front of the LMP2 field. The Ferraris ran 1-2 in GTE Pro (Bruni ahead of Bird), followed by Olivier Pla in the #66 Ford. A span of 29 sec covered the three under green-flag racing with 41 min left. Lamy continued to set the GTE Am pace in the #98 Aston.
The defending champion #1 Porsche (Webber, Bernhard, Hartley) held on for its first win of the season and second straight for the mark, following the #2’s win at Le Mans. The #8 Audi (Duval, Jarvis, Di Grassi) took second to reduce its championship points deficiet to the #2. Lotterer and Fassler claimed third in the #7 Audi.
The Signatech Alpine (Lapierre, Menezes, Richelmi) took its third straight win in LMP2. RGR Sports (Senna, Gonzalez, Albuquerque crossed the line in P2 to take its second podium of the year. The #31 Extreme Speed Motorsport Ligier-Nissan (Derani, Cumming, Dalzier) took its third podium of the season.
Bruni and James Calado took their first GTE Pro win of the season (and first of Calado’s WEC career) in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488. Teammates Bird and Davide Rigon finished second in the #71. Aston Martin #95 took third (Marco Sorenson, Thiim), but the #98 won GTE Am (Lamy, Dalla Lana, Lauda).
For full results please CLICK HERE.