Andre Lotterer says he is proud to have finished second with Audi's new R18 e-tron hybrid prototype on its debut, even though the German led for the majority of his opening stint in the World Endurance Championship's six-hour race at Spa.
Lotterer, along with Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler, could not maintain the advantage they had built up in the wet early stages, when the quattro technology came into its own, and were beaten by conventional R18 of Marc Gene, Loic Duval and Romain Dumas. But in spite of not being able to keep pace with the winning car in the dry conditions, Lotterer said that it was a strong start for the project.
"Of course you know I want to win and I cannot lie about that, and then when you take the lead and at one stage have a 55-second lead, so you feel like you lost out on something," he said. "But the other guys were just better, they did a perfect decision [to change to slick tires at the right time], we were a bit more conservative and then Ben struggled a lot with the understeer in the car at that point.
"He was struggling to get some temperature into his tires and then we were really unlucky with the safety car, when we got split and that was crucial in the race. It put us even further away from trying to do something.
"We did our thing but it is still a learning curve for the hybrid system. And for that we can be happy and proud about it."
The hybrid had proved highly competitive in the rain. Lotterer and Tom Kristensen in the other example dominated the early stages of the event, maximizing the extra traction from the power boost to the front wheels at speed.
"It's a quattro and even if it is not permanent and it's just a few seconds that we have this boost the fact that it is on the front wheels makes your life easier," Lotterer said. "From the rules we boost at 120kph [75mph], so any part of the track where we reached that you still are in a big acceleration phase. Those long corners – like the fast left-hander at Pouhon – you have a good advantage there and those long corners you carry a lot of speed and still turning this helped a lot.
"Even out of hairpins you struggle until 120kph and then boom, you have the advantage."