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Audi R18 TDI Clinches Top Three Grid Positions On Its Race Debut

Timo Bernhard behind the wheel of the no.1 Audi R18 TDI during qualifying at Spa. Photo by Audi MotorsportFirst race, first pole position: In qualifying for the 1000-kilometer race at Spa the new Audi R18 TDI has confirmed the strong impression it made two weeks ago during the test day at Le Mans. By clinching positions one, two and three Audi Sport Team Joest achieved a perfect qualifying result.

As early as in the three free practice sessions on Thursday and Friday the innovative LMP1 sports car, which turns Audi’s ultra-lightweight technology into a visual experience, had been the dominant vehicle at the top of the time sheets. In qualifying Timo Bernhard in the black Audi R18 TDI designated as car number “1” then managed the fastest lap. Setting a time of 2m 01.502s he relegated his teammates André Lotterer and Tom Kristensen to positions two and three by a narrow margin.

“I’m incredibly happy about the result, particularly for the team. We did carry quite a big burden because every new car at Audi has immediately been successful. I think we’ve squeezed out the maximum today. That I had the good fortune of clinching the first pole position in the Audi R18 TDI fills me with pride,” Bernhard said.

“This is a nice reward for the work done over the past few months and a great beginning for our new Audi R18 TDI. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the level of our rivals’ potential because qualifying was stopped early due to an accident. The result provides good motivation to the squad. It’s not that important at a 1000-kilometer race but it’s a nice omen,” said Head of Audi Motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich.

Timo Bernhard (middle) won the first pole for Audi in the R18 TDI. Photo by Audi Motorsport By starting from the pole position at its first race the Audi R18 TDI continues the tradition of the particularly successful predecessor models, R8 and R10 TDI, which had captured the top position on the grid on their debut as well (Frank Biela in 2000 at Sebring in the R8 and Allan McNish in 2006 in the R10 TDI). AUDI AG subsequently went down in Le Mans history with both sports prototypes.

The qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps, however, did not provide a real clue about where the contenders stand. The session, which had originally been scheduled for 20 minutes, ended early after 14:06 minutes due to an accident which had severely damaged the guard rails. Not all of the top teams had completed their fast laps by that time. As the free practice sessions had already seen numerous incidents and red flags Audi Sport Team Joest sent its three Audi R18 TDI cars on the time chase right at the beginning of the qualifying session– a decision that proved to be strategically correct and earned Audi the top three grid positions.

The second round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) starts on Sunday at 14:05 hrs and lasts a maximum of six hours. Eurosport 2 will broadcast live from 14:00 hrs to 17:30 hrs (local time) from Spa-Francorchamps, Eurosport will cover the final phase from 17:30 hrs to 20:00 hrs.

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