Audi comeback in the USA

Two Audi R15 TDI cars in “Petit Le Mans” race at Road Atlanta


By Franck D.

29 September 2010 - 15:24
Audi comeback in the USA

After an almost exactly one-year break Audi will contest a race again for the first time in the USA: at the "Petit Le Mans” endurance classic at Road Atlanta (U.S. state of Georgia) on October 2, Audi Sport Team Joest will field two Audi R15 TDI cars driven by Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish and Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Treluyer.

Audi’s track record at the U.S. counterpart of the Le Mans 24 Hours is similarly impressive as at the French original: from 2000 to 2008, an Audi prototype crossed the finish line as the winner nine consecutive times. Last year, Audi was again headed for victory at Road Atlanta before the race had to be stopped due to extremely heavy rainfalls. Over the full 1,000-mile distance or maximum time of 10 hours the brand with the four rings has not been beaten at Road Atlanta to date.

The squad around Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich will give everything to keep it that way on the first October weekend. The two Audi R15 TDI cars (chassis numbers 202 and 203) were flown to the United States as early as last week in order to take advantage of a two-day testing opportunity on the demanding track at Road Atlanta on the weekend before the race. Audi Sport Team Joest’s main aim is to optimally set up the R15 plus with its new aerodynamics package for this circuit. The squad had successfully accomplished this at the inaugural round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) at Silverstone for the qualifying session when both Audi prototypes qualified for the front row.

For the race at Road Atlanta Dindo Capello will again join his regular Le Mans partners, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish. With five victories under his belt, the Italian is the most successful driver in "Petit Le Mans” history. McNish’s track record reflects four wins. Tom Kristensen last competed at Road Atlanta in 2002 and the "King of Le Mans” won the race in that year.

Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Treluyer will contest their third joint race for Audi after Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans. Their commitment is also intended to help them gel even better with the Audi squad which is planned to remain unchanged for the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans.

This year’s Le Mans winners will contest the "Petit Le Mans” race as well: Timo Bernhard will drive a Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid together with Romain Dumas and Mike Rockenfeller. This means that all nine Audi drivers who finished the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 13, 2010 on the podium will be on the grid at Road Atlanta too. No doubt, they will find themselves granting a particularly large number of requests for autographs.

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "Nine ‘Petit Le Mans’ victories in the past ten years are impressive proof of ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ and reliability, particularly since we could have won last year’s race as well. Unfortunately, the stoppage thwarted our plans. So we’ve still got some unfinished business at Road Atlanta – as well as at Silverstone. Despite the retirement at the ILMC inaugural round, which was caused by a defective supply part, we know that the R15 plus is a very reliable vehicle. Since we’ll have more opportunities to gather track experience with the R15 plus before the race at Road Atlanta we should also be able to achieve a good race set-up.”

Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): "Obviously we want to achieve a better result at Road Atlanta than we did at Silverstone and, above all, finish without any problems. ‘Petit Le Mans’ is a long and difficult race. We’ve been there very often and still have something to make up from last year because we should have actually won that race if it had been run all the way to the end. We’ve got two days of testing and are hoping that we’ll be able to make optimum use of them. Prior to Silverstone we only had one test at the EuroSpeedway – and these two circuits do differ quite a bit from each other. Now we can test on the track where we’ll actually be contesting the race. This should help us take revenge not just for one but two events: for Road Atlanta in 2009 and for Silverstone in 2010.”

Facts and quotes by the Audi drivers

Dindo Capello (46/I), Audi R15 TDI #7 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
 With five victories under his belt is the most successful driver of the "Petit Le Mans” race
 Was on the podium at the ILMC inaugural round at Silverstone

"I’m expecting us to be more competitive in the race at Road Atlanta than we were at Silverstone. I think that this track will suit our R15 plus a bit better. We were always very strong in this race in the past. That’s why I’m confident that we’ll be able to clinch victory for Audi. This race has always been very fortunate for me. I won five times there at seven events. That’s another reason why Road Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks. And of course I’m happy about driving with Tom (Kristensen) and Allan (McNish) again.”

Tom Kristensen (43/DK), Audi R15 TDI #7 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
 Will compete at Road Atlanta again for the first time since 2002
 Between Silverstone and Atlanta won at the Goodwood Revival

"It’s been quite a while that I last contested ‘Petit Le Mans.’ I’m very much looking forward to running there again after such a long time. I know from my two team colleagues that the track has since been resurfaced, which makes it even faster than it was back then. The track with its quick turns and up- and downhill sections is really wonderful to drive. We had both cars on the front row of the grid at Silverstone. We want to build on that and try to optimally set up the R15 for the window in which it works best – and that is the race. At Silverstone, we unfortunately didn’t manage to do that so well yet.”

Allan McNish (40/GB), Audi R15 TDI #7 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
 With four wins, ranks in second place of the race’s honor roll
 Clinched the first pole position for the Audi R15 TDI at Silverstone

"I love Petit Le Mans! 100,000 fans in such a compact arena as Road Atlanta – that’s simply great. And there’s hardly a track that suits me as well as this. It’s very fast and fluid. It demands an aggressive driving style. Every moment is a very intense experience. Although the race is 1,000 miles long and lasts almost ten hours, tenths of a second can be decisive in the end. In 2007 we beat Porsche by one second and Peugeot by six seconds in 2008. Since the race was stopped even before the midpoint last year and we only lost against Peugeot in a really unfortunate way, we’ve still got some unfinished business there.”

Marcel Fässler (34/CH), Audi R15 TDI #9 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
 Debuted last year at Road Atlanta in a GT2 car
 Finished Le Mans in 2010 as the runner-up together with André Lotterer and Benoît Treluyer

"Road Atlanta is still a real race track with many sections that test your courage. I’m looking forward to it although I’ll be competing in an LMP1 car for the first time. Lapping, in particular, has to be managed very carefully because it’s easy to lose a lot of time in that respect. Last year I was there for the first time and I really enjoyed the trackside atmosphere there too. The fans make this race a really special event for us racers. I’m highly motivated, not least because I can share a car with my two Le Mans team colleagues.”

André Lotterer (28/D), Audi R15 TDI #9 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
 Will fly directly from the Formula Nippon race at Sugo to Atlanta
 Has no experience yet on the Road Atlanta track

"Needless to say, I’m very happy to be sitting in the R15 plus again after our exploit at Le Mans and to be contesting another race with my team colleagues. The fact that it’s Petit Le Mans makes the race a big challenge. I’ll be driving the R15 for the first time on this track and with a lot of downforce. I really enjoyed getting to know the track on the simulator but it was an awe-inspiring experience too.”

Benoît Treluyer (33/F), Audi R15 TDI #9 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
 Like Lotterer, will contest his first "Petit Le Mans” race
 "Petit Le Mans” marks his third racing commitment for Audi

"I’ve never been at Road Atlanta and don’t know the track yet. I practiced the circuit together with André (Lotterer) in Japan, using a computer game. Marcel (Fässler) has driven there before. He told us how great the race is. I’m very much looking forward to driving a race in the USA. It’s only the second time for me. The atmosphere at American races seems to be very interesting. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to clinch a good result for Audi and that everything will be going as well as it did at Le Mans and in my most recent runs in Japan.”

Schedule (local times)

Wednesday, September 29
16:15–17:15 Test session (all classes)
17:15–17:45 Test session (prototypes)

Thursday, September 30
10:00–11:00 Free practice
14:35–15:35 Free practice
19:00–21:00 Night practice

Friday, October 1
09:30–10:30 Free practice
15:15–15:40 Qualifying (GT cars)
15:50–16:15 Qualifying (prototypes)

Saturday, October 2
09:15–09:40 Warm-up
11:15–21:15 Race (394 laps, maximum of 10 hours)


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