The World Champions had started strongly. At the beginning of the new sports car era which is governed by efficiency regulations, Audi proved its technological expertise in the battle against two challengers. World Champion Tom Kristensen (DK), sharing car #1 with Loïc Duval (F) and Lucas di Grassi (BR), managed setting the fastest single lap in qualifying on Saturday. A day later André Lotterer (D), on posting the fastest race lap, showed that the diesel hybrid sports car from Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm is fast across a single lap despite a restrictive rating.
In the thrilling early phase of the 6-hour race, Lotterer advanced from position four on the grid to the front within 22 minutes. Rainshowers setting in made for extremely critical track conditions in the first hour. On the slippery track, Lucas di Grassi lost control of his car and crashed into the guard rails. The Audi factory driver managed to head for the pits under his own power. However, Audi Sport Team Joest discovered damage to the monocoque and took car #1 out of the race.
When André Lotterer slipped into a gravel trap on the wet track on lap 34, car #2 lost four laps in the rescue operation. The 2012 World Champion turned over his race car after 1h 51m of driving time in fourth place to Benoît Tréluyer (F). When the rain became heavier the Frenchman received an intermediate tire version from partner Michelin. Twelve laps later, Tréluyer, in the fast Copse corner, slipped off track and damaged the front of his R18 e-tron quattro too severely for heading back to the pit lane.
With that, Audi experienced a sad premiere. The 2012 and 2013 World Champions had never suffered the retirement of all its race cars in any of the previous WEC races. The last sports car race in which damage resulting from an accident prevented Audi from finishing was the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta in the 2011 season. With 13 victories in 24 races (success rate: 54 percent) the R18 has set the benchmark in its era since 2011.
For Audi Sport and Audi Sport Team Joest, a race against time has begun. In only two weeks, round two of the WEC is on the agenda at Spa (B). By that time, the damaged cars #1 and #2 have to be prepared from scratch again. In addition, in preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours, a third R18 e-tron quattro, shared by Filipe Albuquerque (P) and Marco Bonanomi (I), is being prepared.