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Audi Sport News Update: WEC and Le Mans


Thorough WEC Season Preparation at Sebring
[source: Audi Sport]
Audi has continued its pre-season preparations for the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with a test on the track at Sebring, USA, during the first week of March. All nine LMP race drivers reeled off a total of more than 6,000 kilometers in a test version of the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro on five test days. On the unrelenting circuit in Florida, which due to its characteristics is regarded as an extremely tough test track, the main focus was placed on durability. In optimal weather conditions at Sebring, the squad of Audi Sport achieved the goals it had set for itself. “All the drivers were enthusiastic about the car,” said Chris Reinke, Head of LMP in summing up the tests. “Our Le Mans prototype for this year is an evolution. In spite of this, the drivers agreed that they felt improvements in so many areas that you could almost call this a new car. The new aerodynamics, for example, in combination with the excellent work of our tire partner Michelin, makes enhanced performance possible.” All manufacturers will meet for the first time at an official joint WEC test, the prologue, at Le Castellet (France), on March 28.

Watch video shot at the test below:

Fourtitude Editor’s Note: Regular contributors to the site James Edmonds of The Motorsports Diaries blog and photographer Thomas Murray were lucky enough to be at the track during the several days of on-track testing of the latest R18. A full report including many more photographs can be found HERE.

Loic Duval

Loic Duval Gets Dragon Racing Seat for Miami EPrix
[source: FIA Formula E]
Works Audi sportscar driver Loic Duval has been confirmed alongside Jerome D’Ambrosio at Dragon Racing for the upcoming Miami ePrix.

The 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours winner and World Endurance Champion takes over from Oriol Servia in the American-based team and will make his Formula E debut on Saturday, March 14.

As well as being a sportscar superstar Duval is an ex-Formula Nippon and Super GT champion in Japan and was a contemporary of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg when he raced in the Formula 3 Euro Series in the mid-2000s.

“I am very pleased to have Loic join the Dragon Racing team for the first ever Formula E race in the United States,” said Jay Penske, Owner of Dragon Racing. “It’s never easy to step into a new series, but his preparation and simulation sessions went exceptionally well and we’re confident he’s ready for this challenge. I look forward to seeing Loic ascend in Miami and am eager to watch he and Jerome create a winning combination.”

 

Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval, Oliver Jarvis – the Challengers
[source: Audi Sport]
When Lucas di Grassi (BR), Loïc Duval (F) and Oliver Jarvis (GB) start the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in April, they will do so as established Audi drivers. Still, the situation will be completely new for each of them, as they’re forming a driver team for the first time.

Oliver Jarvis has been driving for Audi since 2008 while Loïc Duval and Lucas di Grassi have been with the brand since 2012 – together, their time with the four rings amounts to 13 years. The generation change in Audi’s driver line-up is the reason why they now form a team for the first time. Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello, who spent between one and a half and two decades of their careers with Audi, have since retired from their active careers as race drivers. “This gave us the opportunity to combine the three younger talents into a new driver squad,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich.

Loïc Duval already raced together with Lucas di Grassi last year. Oliver Jarvis, who in the past occupied the third cockpit in WEC races at Spa and at Le Mans, is now contesting all eight WEC rounds as a new regular driver for the first time. “This has always been my big aim. It’s a huge opportunity that I’m determined to make optimum use of together with Lucas and Loïc,” says the pleased 31-year-old Briton from Burwell, who had previously been active for Audi in the DTM for four years and clinched his first sports car victory in the Sebring 12 Hours two years ago.

Lucas di Grassi, on clinching three second places at Spa, Le Mans and Austin last year, has shown the type of ambitions he has. “Obviously, I’d like to be the first Brazilian to win the Le Mans 24 Hours,” says the 30-year-old South American. And Loïc Duval would preferably give himself a gift two days after his 33rd birthday. Following his first victory at La Sarthe in 2013 with Kristensen and McNish, he is now aiming to clinch the next trophy in the iconic 24-hour race. The Frenchman still holds the lap record there which he set in 2010.

In these three drivers we’ve got a strong squad on the grid that is set on competing with our three-time Le Mans winners Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer,” Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich is certain. “Our driver line-up for 2015 is balanced, experienced and strong. I can fully rely on them. They’re an important element in the WEC battle with the other three manufacturers.”

Tom Kristensen

Tom Kristensen Announces Book Project & Takes Part in Slot Car Race
[source: Audi Sport]
Tom Kristensen has ended his active career as a race driver but the Dane, who continues to work for Audi as an ambassador and fitness consultant, is not suffering from boredom. The Le Mans record winner is working on a book about his career that is to be published on the occasion of the Le Mans 24 Hours. On Wednesday night, he was a surprise guest at the season opener of the RCCO slot car racing series that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. At the controls of an Audi R8, he won a “Danish duel” against his compatriot Anders Fjordbach, who in 2015 is competing in the Blancpain GT Series in an Audi R8 LMS ultra.

Tom Kristensen at 2015 Geneva Motor Show

Tom Kristensen Presents new R8 & R8 LMS in Geneva
[source: Audi Sport]
Prominent appearance at the Geneva Motor Show: Together with Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development of AUDI AG, Rahel Frey, Edoardo Mortara and Tom Kristensen presented among others the new Audi R8 LMS. The nine-time Le Mans winner, who has just recently ended his career, was previously featured in an emotional film with a selection of the trophies he won and thus put the visitors in the mood for the next generation of the R8. On the same day, the production car was unveiled not only in Geneva but also at the Audi Cities in Berlin and in London. Kristensen’s former team-mates Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro attended these events as guests.

Rene Rast

René Rast Fit for the Endurance Season
[source: Audi Sport]
In 2015, René Rast competes for the first time in Audi’s LMP program after having previously been very successful in GT3 racing in the Audi R8 LMS ultra. At Le Mans, in June, he will be able to prove that he is physically fit even for the highest demands.

A math example illustrates what is involved at Le Mans: the deceleration on braking in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro can amount to as much as 3g. So, when the driver brakes on entering the chicanes of the famous Hunaudières straight at Le Mans, a massive force acts on him – the 68 kilograms of his own weight, as in the case of René Rast, briefly turns into 204 kilos that then pushes him into the harness. This is clearly more than in a GT3 race car.

René Rast’s preparation has included his participation in the Audi winter camp. “I had huge fun when I took part in the camp for the first time in February,” says the 28-year-old driver from Westphalia who rides a mountain bike and skis in his free time. “I hardly knew the Le Mans drivers before. Now I got to meet the whole squad. And I experienced what Audi considers important in terms of physical preparation. It’s clear that the centrifugal forces in the Le Mans prototype are significantly higher than those in the GT3 race car.”

The cornering forces of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro put a heavy strain on the body, so Rast has designed his strength training accordingly. “Especially the neck muscles have to be well-developed,” explains the junior driver. “These sections can be trained well by using weights.” René Rast got a taste of his new task last June when he competed in an LMP2 race car of a privateer team at Le Mans.

“My previous training has provided a good base and I’m going to adjust my workout schedule to the new tasks as necessary,” says Rast. The current champion of the ADAC GT Masters racing series will experience his racing debut in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro on one of the world’s most challenging tracks – the seven-kilometer circuit at Spa in Belgium of all places. The first weekend in May in the Ardennes will also show how successful his physical preparation has been. René Rast still has fondest memories of the track from last July when he won the Spa 24 Hours in the Audi R8 LMS ultra.

lemans

Only 100 Days to Go until the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans
[source: Automobile Club de l’Ouest]
In 100 days, Saturday 13th June at 15h00, the 56 cars entered for the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours will be unleashed. The third round of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship is the pinnacle of the year, and from the number of reservations pouring in it’s obvious that people can’t wait for the day to arrive!

Boosted by the growing interest of manufacturers the field in the LM P1 category, whose technical regulations came into force in 2014 and give pride of place to technological innovation, comprises 14 cars.

Although the four major manufacturers which have entered works cars – Audi, Nissan, Porsche and Toyota – have made radically different technical choices there’s little to choose between them in terms of potential.

Toyota, winner of the 2014 world endurance championship, will be out to clinch a trophy that keeps slipping through its fingers, and is making victory at Le Mans its priority objective. Audi has emerged on top in the last five races (with a lot of help from Tréluyer, Fässler and Lotterer), and is determined to add a 14th success in the Sarthe to its laurels to close in on the record of 16 wins held by Porsche. The Stuttgart firm, which made its comeback to the blue riband category in 2014, is returning to the Le Mans circuit with greater ambitions after finishing the 2014 season on a high note thanks to some excellent results. Nissan’s comeback to the summit of endurance racing after a 16-year absence is also eagerly awaited. The GT-R NISMO created a sensation when it was unveiled in an ad during the Super Bowl because of its radically innovative design. The car is currently on display at the Geneva International Motor Show where it is one of the star attractions.

The other event on the morning of Saturday 13th June is organised by Le Mans Legend and it has attracted a bumper entry of 61 cars that wrote some of the most glorious pages in the history of the race between 1949 and 1968. All kinds of entertainment will be in full swing in the village to the delight of the spectators, especially the eagerly-awaited concerts whose particularly attractive acts will be revealed in the near future.

The majority of the 168 drivers entered will have got to grips with the track at the Le Mans 24-Hours test day on 31st May. Before that, the first two rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) will have taken place on the Silverstone (12th April) and Spa (2nd May) circuits, as well as the first round of the 2015 European Le Mans Series (11th April, Silverstone).
Before 31st May the American teams entered for the Tudor United SportsCar Championship will have already raced in five rounds of the series in North America to optimise their preparation for the Sarthe challenge.

Given this mouth-watering programme don’t waste a second and reserve your places for the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours on 13-14 June – now!

mcnish

Award for Allan McNish
[source: Audi Sport]
Audi legend Allan McNish has received a prestigious accolade in his native Britain. The 2013 FIA WEC World Endurance Racing Champion was presented with the Gold Medal of the British Automobile Racing Club (BARC). The 45-year-old Scotsman personally accepted the award in recognition of his outstanding career in Kenilworth near Coventry. On receiving this accolade McNish has joined the list of renowned racers having been honored by the club including, among others, the Formula One World Champions Lewis Hamilton, Damon Hill, Jack Brabham and Jacky Stewart.

Marco Bonanomi

Marco Bonanomi Attends Gallery Opening in Panama
[source: Audi Sport]
Audi factory driver Marco Bonanomi attended the official opening of the GBONA’ art gallery in Panama. At the event that was supported by Audi Panama, the Italian explained the technology of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro hybrid sports car that he will be driving in the Le Mans 24 Hours. In addition, Bonanomi shared with the audience the unique fascination exuded by the world’s major endurance race in which Audi has claimed an amazing 13 victories to date.

 

Fit with Tom Kristensen
[source: Audi Sport]
Although he hung up his helmet, Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen participated in the traditional Audi Sport Winter Camp in the Allgäu in early February – in a new role.

The Dane, who ended his active career in winter following nine Le Mans victories and still achieves top physical performances, has been a consultant to Audi Sport in the important field of fitness since this year.

While the Audi drivers from the DTM and the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) have periodic checkups using sports medicine diagnostics at TU Munich, Tom Kristensen contributes his experience from the driver’s perspective to the training camp. “I’m happy that my knowledge and my experience are sought-after,” says the 2013 FIA World Endurance Champion. “An example from my work: Every driver can train in a very individual manner. I pay attention to possible weaknesses and subsequently suggest to my colleagues how to train in a way that is well-balanced for the whole body. Another topic is how to strike a balance between endurance and strength.”

In Ofterschwang, Kristensen integrated many new activities into the program of the team building week. “We’ve structured individual workouts in a way that gives them a more competitive character. That provides a race driver with an even greater incentive and was favorably received by all the drivers,” says the Dane. Audi Sport’s team physician Dr. Vincenzo Tota used the week to get to know all the race drivers.

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