Le Mans 24 Hours legend Tom Kristensen says Audi finds itself in the unusual position of not being the favourite for this year's race after being out-performed by Toyota in the opening two rounds of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship.
Desperate to bounce back from a disastrous opening round at Silverstone, which saw Toyota claim a 1-2 as Audi saw both of its cars suffer heavy crashes, the No.1 R18 e-tron of Kristensen, Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval finished a competitive second, but were not a match for its Japanese rivals once again.
With attentions turning to the blue riband Le Mans 24 Hours next month, nine-time Le Mans winner Kristensen believes Toyota must now be considered favourites to scupper Audi's efforts to make it 13 wins in 15 years.
“With a very good team performance we achieved second place although we're not on a par in terms of acceleration and top speed. But we didn't give up. The mechanics, the engineers and all the other team members can be proud.
“Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval and I managed to drive a nice race. Fortune played a bit of a role in this second place, but so did plenty of ambition. I do not see us as the favorites at Le Mans this year.”
With the No.2 and No.3 cars finishing fifth and sixth respectively, Audi Sport Team Director Ralf Juttner admits Toyota's TS040 Hybrid is undoubtedly the LMP1 car to beat now.
“We've got to be happy about second place. Congratulations to Toyota, they really built a good car. We drove our first real race this season and have scored points and gained experience.
“This race was a relief after the run at Silverstone. We finished with all three cars and drove an almost flawless race. Only in the case of car #2, things weren't running smoothly in every respect. But under the given conditions, we weren't able to keep the pace of the winning car.
“On a positive note, the tires still worked very well on the second stint. But we were running cars #1 and #2 with more downforce, which helps here. We learned a lot, also with car #3.”