Chinese debut for the Audi R15 TDI

Two Audi R15 TDI cars for Capello/Dumas and Kristensen/McNish

By Franck Drui

29 October 2010 - 12:15
Chinese debut for the Audi R15 TDI

Six years after its last motorsport commitment in China with the DTM, Audi returns to the "Middle Kingdom.” Audi Sport Team Joest will field two Audi R15 TDI cars at the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) finale at Zhuhai on November 7. The two diesel race sports cars will be driven by Dindo Capello/Romain Dumas and Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish.

For the first time ever, China will host an important endurance race for sports prototypes. The permanent race track of the city of Zhuhai in the province of Guangdong that was inaugurated in 1996 will be the venue of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC). The event will be a good opportunity for Audi to demonstrate the brand’s competence in motorsport and in a country in which Audi has already assumed a leading position: in October, the one millionth vehicle was delivered to a Chinese customer – no other automobile manufacturer in the premium segment has achieved this to date.

Major logistical effort

Audi will contest the 1000-kilometer race at Zhuhai with two of the Audi R15 TDI cars that were successful at Le Mans. Before the event, Audi Sport Team Joest had to perform a major feat in logistics. "As early as September, after the race at Silverstone, we dispatched a sea container,” explains Ralf Jüttner, Technical Director of Audi Sport Team Joest. "We shipped all the garage equipment parts and refueling rigs that we didn’t need for the race at Road Atlanta as we had separate equipment for that event.”

All the other equipment was sent on its way by air from Germany on October 25. Five single loading units with a total of 27.5 tons of material including the two race cars departed from Frankfurt/Main, Germany. The customs declarations were particularly complex. "We had to capture and document the contents of each individual drawer,” says Jüttner. "Several employees were busy handling the entire logistics operation for weeks.” By comparison, the entry preparations for the near 50 team members of Audi Sport Team Joest involved far less formalities.

As at Silverstone and Road Atlanta, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish will spearhead the Audi squad at Zhuhai. The eight-time Le Mans winner from Denmark and his Scottish team-mate who has won the French endurance classic twice will contest the race in the Audi R15 TDI designated as car number "7.” After his victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Romain Dumas is returning to the cockpit of an Audi R15 TDI for a racing commitment: for the first time the Frenchman will share the car designated as number "8” with Dindo Capello.

Audi R8 LMS to compete for the first time in the same field as the R15 TDI

In addition to the Chinese debut of the sports prototypes the many fans of the Audi brand will witness another premiere at Zhuhai: for the first time, the Audi R8 LMS entered by private teams will compete in the same field as the "factory” fielded Audi R15 TDI sports prototype. No less than three of the GT3 customer sport race cars will fight for the honors in the GTC class at Zhuhai. The United Autosports team is preparing two vehicles. Britons Danny Watts and Richard Meins will share a car with the Hong Kong Chinese Frank Yu, while the second car will be driven by Frenchmen Alain Li and Henri Richard. The newly founded KK Performance team is banking on the Audi R8 LMS in the LM GTC class as well. This cockpit will be shared by the former Formula 1 driver Alex Yoong, from Malaysia, and Hong Kong racers Marchy Li and Matthew Marsh.

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "The 1000-kilometer race at Zhuhai concludes the 2010 prototype season in which we achieved an impressive one-two-three victory including a new distance record at the Le Mans 24 Hours with the Audi R15 TDI. China is an extremely important market for Audi. That’s why we’ll do everything within our means to leave a good impression at our first showing with our diesel race sports cars in China. At the ILMC opening race at Silverstone we had both cars on the front row of the grid. At Road Atlanta we were leading the race for a long time. At Zhuhai we want to win – knowing full well that we’ve got an extremely strong rival.”

Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): "At our last races we were beaten under par. Our pace has been consistently good: at Silverstone we started from pole position, at Road Atlanta the battle between Peugeot and Audi was very close. That’s why we want to try and shake off our misfortune at Zhuhai and end the season with a victory. For almost all of us competing on this track is a new experience and everyone is excited about it. Our engineer Leena Gade is the only one who’s been there before, once with the A1 GP Series, and Romain Dumas won a race in a junior series on this track 13 years ago. Apparently the circuit is very hard on the brakes of the car and very good traction is important there as well.”

Dindo Capello (46/I), Audi R15 TDI #8 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
 Will compete alongside Romain Dumas for the first time
 Is the only Audi driver to have mounted the podium at each of his five races with the R15 TDI in the 2010 season

"I’m hoping that our run in China will bring us good fortune. My season started in April with a victory in the R15 TDI at Le Castellet, so a victory at the finale would be very nice. At the beginning of the season, Allan McNish was my team-mate. Now I’m running with Romain Dumas, who won the Le Mans 24 Hours. It’s the first time for me to have a French co driver since sharing a cockpit with Laurent Aiello in 2001 at Le Mans. I’m not racing for the first time in China. This country brings back memories of the DTM for me – and my best DTM result. At Shanghai I achieved fifth place six years ago in the Audi A4 DTM. Now I’m eager to see what Zhuhai will bring.”

Romain Dumas (32/F), Audi R15 TDI #8 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
 Has celebrated success at Zhuhai before in his career
 Will contest his first race again in the Audi R15 TDI after his victory at Le Mans

"It’s a nice feeling to return to the cockpit of the Audi R15 TDI. It’s my first race in this sports car after our victory in June at Le Mans – and this break seems pretty long to me. Obviously I’m hoping that we’ll be competitive with the Audi R15 TDI in China and experience a thrilling race. I’m happy about competing for the first time with Dindo (Capello). He was the racer who gave us younger drivers a lot of valuable advice at the beginning of our time with Audi. I enjoy racing in China and Zhuhai brings back very special memories to me: in 1997 I competed there in a Formula Renault invitation race and won.”

Tom Kristensen (43/DK), Audi R15 TDI #7 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
 Has been on the podium this season three times
 Has never raced at Zhuhai before but many times in China

"I’ll be driving a sports car in China for the first time although I’ve contested other races in this country before. I also ran in the DTM at Shanghai, in the Race of Champions at Beijing and I’m also familiar with Macao. It’s nice that we’re competing with the Audi R15 TDI now in a market that’s so important to Audi. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to win the hearts and minds of the spectators for our sport with our showing. I’d really love to win the finale of the ILMC for Audi with Allan McNish. We’ll give everything to make this happen.”

Allan McNish (40/GB), Audi R15 TDI #7 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
 Is traveling to China for the first time
 Clinched the first pole position, one victory and three third places in the Audi R15 TDI this year

"I’ve never contested a race in China before; in fact I’ve never been to the country at all. Just a few years ago I heard for the first time that there was a circuit at Zhuhai. The only thing I know about the track is that it’s located near Hong Kong and Macao. But I enjoy traveling to countries and race tracks which are new to me. The race will probably be tough because it’s the finale. Both Peugeot and Audi want to end the sports car season with a victory.The track is new to all of us. We’ll only have a short time for testing before the standard practice sessions start. So we need to learn quickly and adjust. After our victory at Le Castellet at the beginning of the season it would be nice to end the year with another win. That’ll be difficult but that’s what we’re aiming for. And if our pace and the strategy are right, we’ll be in contention.”

Romain Dumas about Zhuhai: "At Zhuhai we’ll find a track with 14 turns some of which are very narrow. The start-finish straight on the other hand is very long. This leads to a rhythm that’s hard on the brakes but should also offer some overtaking opportunities. Since it’s been a long time that I raced there I don’t think I’ll have any kind of track advantage now any more.”

Schedule (local times)

Thursday, November 4
09:00–12:00 Free practice
14:00–17:00 Free practice

Friday, November 5
10:30–11:30 Free practice 1
15:30–16:30 Free practice 2

Saturday, November 6
10:00–11:00 Free practice 3
14:30–14:50 Qualifying (GT vehicles)
15:00–15:20 Qualifying (prototypes)
16:00–17:00 Meet the Audi Team (Audi Team Hospitality)

Sunday, November 7
09:00–09:20 Warm-up
12:00–18:00 Race (1000 km/6 hours)



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