Audi filled the top three places in the opening round of the European Le Mans Series at Donington Park, England, on Saturday.
Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello won the race ahead of works team mates Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro, with the Johanssson Racing R8 of Stefan Johansson and Guy Smith finishing third.
Capello crossed the line over a lap ahead of Pirro, who only took second with 13mins to go when Smith was forced to make a late splash 'n' dash for fuel. This negated a fantastic overtaking move by Smith on Pirro at the Melbourne Hairpin.
"The advantage Tom gave me was so big that all I had to do was bring it home," said Capello. "He did an all right job at the beginning."
Cold conditions and the occasional rain shower meant some tricky set-up decisions, but Kristensen laid down the gauntlet by storming into an immediate lead. Biela was passed by Johansson on the opening lap but retook second when the Swede got boxed-in behind Oliver Gavin's Saleen GTS car at the Old Hairpin.
Biela took the lead when Kristensen was forced to observe a stop/go penalty for hitting the LPM675 leader Martin O'Connell at Mcleans on lap 30. Biela himself got into trouble soon after, however, when he hit JJ Lehto's BMW and was forced to make an extra stop to replace a punctured right-rear tyre.
The Joest team took the opportunity to refuel during the stop and put Pirro in the car, which meant it wouldn't have to make a splash 'n' go later on.
"We tried to stretch our fuel window and it worked," said Pirro. "Frank was just unfortunate to have contact with another car."
Biela added: "The collision with the slower car cost us a pit stop which meant we couldn't fight for the win."
That gave Kristensen/Capello a lap advantage over Johansson/Smith, and the Gulf car only lost second due to its late fuel stop.
"It's a bit disappointing not to beat at least one of the factory cars," said Johansson. Smith added: "Second would have been nice but we'll take third any day."
The Courage C60 of Jean-Christophe Boullion and Laurent Redon was fourth after a strong and reliable run and finished well ahead of the Westward Racing Panoz of Jay Cochran and Peter Boss.
The works Panoz challenge was hit when Jan Magnussen (loose wheel) and Klaus Graf (locking brakes and gearbox problem) went off into the gravel at McLeans within five laps of each other. After they were dug out, Graf finished sixth and Magnussen was eighth.
Also in the wars was the new Chrysler Oreca of Olivier Beretta and Yannick Dalmas. The car ran a strong fourth early on, but a broken throttle cable and electrical problems spelled some very long pit stops and it finished way down the order.
O'Connell and Warren Carway were a stunning seventh overall in their LMP675-winning Pilbeam.
Also praiseworthy were the efforts of Bruno Lambert and Ian McKellar, who won the GTS class in their brand new RML-run Saleen. Alternator problems hampered the Konrad-run Saleen of Oliver Gavin and Franz Konrad.
"It was a real last-ditch effort to get this car here," said Lambert. "It's a great result for us."
Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen won the GT class for Porsche, after BMW's challenge was stymied by engine problems and Lehto's clash with Biela.
1 Rinaldo Capello/Tom Kristensen, works Audi R8, 115 laps
2 Emanuele Pirro/Frank Biela, works Audi R8, +1 lap
3 Stefan Johansson/Guy Smith, Johansson Audi R8, +1 lap
4 J-C Boullion/Larent Redon, Courage C60, +4 laps
5 Jay Cochran/Peter Boss, Westward Panoz LMP07, +9 laps
6 Klaus Graf/Gualter Salles, works Panoz, +9 laps
7 Martin O'Connell/Warren Carway, Pilbeam MP84, +10 laps
8 Jan Magnussen/David Brabham, works Panoz LMP07, +11 laps
9 Bruno Lambert/Ian McKellar, RML Saleen S7R, +13 laps
10 Lucas Luhr/Sascha Maassen, Porsche 911 GT3-RS, +13 laps
Martin O'Connell/Warren Carway, Pilbeam MP84
GTS class winner
Bruno Lambert/Ian McKellar, RML Saleen S7R
GT class winner
Lucas Luhr/Sascha Maassen, Porsche 911 GT3-RS
Abu Dhabi / Results
Standings / After 17 races
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|Emilia Romagna||Imola||18 Apr|
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Berlin / Results
|2||Nyck de Vries||47m23.447s|
Standings / After 11 races
|1||Antonio Felix da Costa||158|
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|Diriyah||Diriyah||26 Feb 2021|
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