Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler delivered Audi the 2012 Silverstone 6 Hours crown after a race-long fight with the sister R18 and Toyota's lone TS030 Hybrid.
Victory also earned Audi the constructors' title in the inaugural year of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Alexander Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima meanwhile secured a podium in only the TS030's second race. It was a constant threat, taking the fight to Audi from the start and leading for long spells.
The R18's ability to run far longer stints, coupled with a providential late safety car, ultimately decided the contest however, with both R18s able to make one less stop across the six hours. The differing pit schedules only added to what was a fascinating contest, with the TS030 building upon its Le Mans promise and proving an equal for the Audis on single-lap and long-run pace.
That was apparent from the opening half hour when Alexander Wurz first jumped Tom Kristensen's Ultra and moved into second at the start, before closing down and then passing Lotterer's e-tron for the lead of the race as the pair fought their way through traffic. Wurz began to stretch away but pitted after just 22 laps, compared to Audi's stops on laps 25 and 26.
That marked the start of a continued swapping of the lead by the No. 1 Audi and No. 7 Toyota whenever the pit stops cycled through, which would carry on until the final hour when a safety car helped Audi's bid to complete the race with seven stops, compared to Toyota's eight. The extra stop finally allowed Lotterer some breathing space in the lead Audi, and also set up an excellent late battle between Wurz and Kristensen in the No. 2 R18.
The latter had lost ground with a rear puncture and then a stop and go penalty, but fought back and was just 13s down the road when Wurz rejoined for the final time with 30 minutes to run. The Austrian extended that by five seconds however to secure second. As a result, Allan McNish and Kristensen surrender the lead in the WEC drivers' standings to sister No. 1 R18 trio.
The privateer LMP1 proved equally fierce, with all four entries often on the same lap despite a spin for the No. 22 JRM HPD on the opening lap. In the end the fight was settled in favor of the No. 13 Rebellion Lola of Nicolas Prost and Neel Jani, which had to hang on in the face of severe late pressure from the No. 21 Strakka HPD. There was less than a second to choose between them at the flag.
It was a similar story in LMP2, where the lead changed hands constantly throughout the six hours, starting as early as the opening lap when polesitter Alex Brundle was forced off in order to avoid the stricken JRM HPD.
The No. 42 Greaves Zytek-Nissan fought back up to third only for a stop and go penalty to effectively end its podium challenge, dropping it to fifth. Victory instead came down to a three-way fight between ADR-Delta, Starworks and Signatech, with the respective No. 25, No. 44 and No. 26 cars covered by less than 20s heading into the final two laps. Stephane Sarrazin was the quickest of the trio in the Starworks HPD, but ran out of time to deny ADR-Delta's John Martin, Tor Graves and Jan Charouz the class win.
As was the case in LMP1, fuel conservation proved critical in GTE Pro as the profligacy of the Ferraris allowed the No. 51 AF Corse and No. 66 JMW 458s to cruise home first and second. Aston Martin had been able to mix it up with both cars on pure pace, but found itself outside the top three after making an extra stop. Stefan Mucke put in a fantastic late shift, however, and on the final lap seized third in controversial manner from the second No. 71 AF Corse entry.
The pair headed into Vale for the final time side by side and brushing panels. Mucke appeared to have the advantage on the outside, but the fight was settled as Andrea Bertolini spun across his bows and dropped out of the final podium spot.
Ferrari also proved the car to beat in GTE Am, with the lone AF Corse entry leading for much of the way and eventually claiming the win in the hands of Piergiuseppe Perazzini, Marco Cioci and Matt Griffin.