The four rings’ farewell was emotional and perfect: the Brazilian was the quickest of all the drivers during the whole wekend in Bahrain to finish the season with an honorous second place in the standings and a smashing victory in Audi’s final endurance race
The mission of the Audi trio in the last round of the FIA WEC season was to win the 6 Hours of Bahrain and close its farewell to endurance racing with a golden key. After the announcement that the four rings was going to withdraw from the endurance competitions, the focus of the German mark, which had 13 victories in 18 appearances in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, was to close the cycle leaving their mark.
Audi won with the R18 #8 trio: Lucas di Grassi, the Frenchman Loïc Duval and the British Oliver Jarvis, who won the spectacular race last Saturday (19). The Audi R18 # 8 completed 201 laps and received the lead with 16s419 ahead of teammates Marcel Fässler, Andre Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer, completing the Audi party with a 1-2 on its farewell.
Highly motivated, Lucas di Grassi did not want to let the opportunity slip away. Moreover, he did not let it go: he took pole position with the fastest lap in the LMP1 class history on the Sahkir circuit; lowered the category record during the race by making the fastest lap and lapping all three sectors with the best time during the race. For him, his best performance in the World Endurance Championship.
Starting from pole position, the Audi R18 # 8 kept the lead until the end of the first third of the race, when it was surpassed by the team mates after the pit stop. Lucas’s car, however, picked up the top on lap 104 after its trio was the only one to bet on a full-service stop (tire change, fueling and driver change) during a virtual safety car period. The strategy, coupled with a dazzling pace imposed by Di Grassi during his stint – then set the fastest lap of the race – built a good advantage to cross the finish line first after six hours of dispute.
It was a gala show. “A victory full of meanings and emotions. It was my most important victory at WEC and also my best performance in the series in these three years. Pole position, record of the track in qualifying and the race, better stint of the race, best lap time in all sectors “, he said. “So, no doubt this performance showed how motivated I was to take the Brazilian and the Audi flag to the top of the podium”, he said.
As part of the four-ring fleet since the end of 2012, Lucas started to compete in the WEC regular season in 2014. In four 24 Hours of Le Mans appearances, three podiums and second place, just in 2014, equaling the best result of a Brazilian driver in the general classification of the mythical race of resistance.
In 2016, the Brazilian, with his teammates, nailed three pole positions and won two races. “We showed that we evolved as a trio of drivers, having won twice in the season, and that’s great. Of course, I’m sad that Audi and most of us are leaving the WEC, which is a great family. I’ll miss the long races and the people too. I was not familiar with the endurance when I drove with Audi for the first time in 2012, and I fell in love with it. I will miss these cars and the adrenaline rush of this style of competition”, he said.
The performance award was to finish the season as the second best trio of the year, behind only champions Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb and Neel Jani of Porsche. A way to finish the race by rewarding the manufacturer that welcomed the Brazilian betting on his potential and recognizing him as one of the best in the world today. “They (Audi) deserve it, and victory was a consequence of that. Second place in the championship ended as a reward: it is not every year that we can say that we have finished two world championships among the top three”, he said, referring to Formula E, where he continues to defend Audi.
“It is undoubtedly a year to be proud, to thank and close this important story of Audi in the endurance with a golden key, and to be part of it providing the ultimate victory. It’s a mixture of feelings: I’m very happy, very satisfied, but at the same time very sad to close this cycle at WEC with Audi. I’ll miss the acceleration of this beast”, he concluded.
Lucas now enters a rest period for the end of the year, and resumes his racing activities with the third round of Formula E in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which takes place on February 18th.