The Petit Le Mans has grown to be one of the most important endurance races in motorsports. Although locking up the championship is still a concern, the Audi team has won the race six years in a row with the R10's predecessor, the R8, and they'd hope to keep the streak alive. Additionally, because it is one of the longer races on the calendar it gives teams a chance to test late season improvements for next year. The revolutionary diesel-powered R10 would also be one step closer to finishing off its maiden season with a perfect record. Full release after the jump.
Ingolstadt, 22 September 2006
Audi Le Mans winning team reunited
- Marco Werner contests "Petit Le Mans" with the R10 TDI
- Le Mans winner supports Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro
- Audi has another American Le Mans Series title within reach
Sebring, Le Mans, Salt Lake City, Portland, Road America, Mosport – the Audi R10 TDI remains unbeaten after six races and its exploits have already gone down in the history books. The revolutionary Audi diesel-powered sportscar faces yet another tough test: "Petit Le Mans" at Road Atlanta (US state of Georgia) is, with a distance of 1000 miles or a maximum duration of 10 hours, the second longest race in the American Le Mans Series and one of the year's most important sportscar races.
Audi has reunited this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans race winning trio for the endurance classic: Taking turns at the wheel of the Audi R10 TDI, with start number 1, will be Frank Biela (Germany), Emanuele Pirro (Italy) and Marco Werner (Germany), who will race together again for the first time since their historic Le Mans victory in June. Marco Werner won the American Le Mans Series in 2003 and 2004 and has been heavily involved in the development of the Audi R10 TDI.
Audi scored six straight "Petit Le Mans" victories with the R10 TDI predecessor, the R8, between 2000 and 2005. The team, under Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, plans to extend this success series around one of North America's most demanding circuits on 30 September. The 4.088 kilometre circuit located approximately 50 miles northeast of Atlanta features fast corners and elevation changes, is loved just as much by the fans as it is by the drivers and should suit the world's most modern and fastest sports-prototype.
After winning the Teams' and Drivers' Championships with two races to spare with Dindo Capello (Italy) and Allan McNish (Scotland), it is now up to Audi Sport North America to win the Manufacturers' Championship in the "Champions League" LM P1 class for Audi over the course of the two remaining races, and to continue the impressive victory sequence of the Audi R10 TDI.
Audi has already achieved more than many experts thought possible in the first year with TDI technology. Winning the Manufacturers' Title in the American Le Mans Series and victory in the three most important long-distance races (Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans) would round off the successful début season of the R10 TDI perfectly.
Prior to the "Petit Le Mans" event, the two Audi R10 TDI sportscars have been stripped and inspected at Audi Sport in Ingolstadt by Team Audi Sport North America mechanics. Following a roll-out last Tuesday, the two revolutionary diesel sportscars have been flown back to the USA.
Testing begins at Road Atlanta on Wednesday (27 September). The race starts on Saturday (30 September) at 11:45 a.m. local time (5:45 p.m. in Germany) and finishes after a maximum duration of ten hours. SPEED Channel broadcasts the entire race in the USA "live" as does Motors TV in Europe.
The fans can get a taste before the highlight of the season as early as Monday in downtown Atlanta: In front of the Lenox Square Mall, the Audi "factory" team will demonstrate pit stops from 1200 to 1245 with the number 1 Audi R10 TDI. The fans will also be able to see Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro in action during driver changes.
Quotes before the race at Road Atlanta
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "We are delighted to be able to present this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans race winning driver combination to the American fans at Road Atlanta. It would be a fantastic performance, having already won Sebring and Le Mans in our debut year with the new R10 TDI, to win the 'Petit Le Mans' as well. However, just like at Sebring and Le Mans, a huge amount can happen during such a long race. And we shouldn't forget that our direct competitors are allowed to start yet again with 65 kilograms less weight and larger fuel tanks."
Frank Biela (Audi R10 TDI #1): "The race at Road Atlanta must run better than the one at Mosport for Emanuele (Pirro) and I. The distance is longer than usual, so from this point of view the set-up work in practice is even more important. Generally, Road Atlanta is very picturesque and always a fantastic race at the end of the season."
Emanuele Pirro (Audi R10 TDI #1): "Petit Le Mans is a very important race to win and I'm really looking forward to it. Frank (Biela) and I won there last year and I hope we can repeat this victory after we had a quite special race at Mosport. There it was important that Dindo (Capello) and Allan (McNish) won the Championship."
Marco Werner (Audi R10 TDI #1): "I've tested a lot this year, but have only had two races until now: Sebring and Le Mans. That's why I delighted to be able to contest another race with the R10 TDI – and especially 'Petit Le Mans', which has grown to become a genuine long-distance 'classic' on a fantastic circuit. In the past, two of us have normally shared the driving there. I know just how strenuous it is and hope that Frank (Biela) and Emanuele (Pirro) can benefit from my support during this long race."
Dindo Capello (Audi R10 TDI #2): "After Sebring, this is the longest race on the ALMS calendar and I'm looking forward to it. Road Atlanta is a really awesome track – I love it. It's a challenging circuit for a driver with many elevation changes and little time to relax. It's one that should suit the R10 TDI although the Dyson Lolas have been very strong in recent races and I expect their good form to continue. A 1000-mile race means the role the entire team plays in terms of pit-stops and race strategy is even more important than usual but they've already shown they have the experience."
Allan McNish (Audi R10 TDI #2): "It's good to go into the last two races, specifically Petit Le Mans, without having any thoughts of how to win the Championship. So Dindo and I can race 100 percent. The circuit itself I enjoy, it's one of the best in America. It's fast and flowing. The high speed nature should suit our R10 TDI but also the Dyson and the Porsche. I expect a very tough battle."
Dave Maraj (Team Director Team Audi Sport North America): "We are excited to be going back to Road Atlanta because this has been a very favourable track for us in the past. It was the venue for Champion Racing's very first ALMS victory in 2003 while Audi have already won the 'Petit' race on six occasions with the Audi R8. Although Allan and Dindo clinched the Drivers' Championship in Mosport, our ultimate goal is to win the Manufacturers' Championship for Audi. Where better to showcase Audi R10 diesel technology than over a distance of 1000 miles in the Petit Le Mans race?"
The schedule at Road Atlanta
Wednesday, 27 September
12:30 – 13:00 Test (LM P1 / P2)
13:00 – 14:00 Test (all classes)
14:00 – 14:30 Test (LM GT1 / GT2)
Thursday, 28 September
10:00 – 11:00 Free Practice
14:45 – 15:45 Free Practice
19:00 – 21:00 Night Practice
Friday, 29 September
09:30 – 10:30 Free Practice
14:50 – 15:15 Qualifying (LM GT1 / GT2)
15:25 – 15:50 Qualifying (LM P1 / P2)
Saturday, 30 September
08:45 – 09:10 Warm-up
11:45 – 21:45 Race (1000 miles or maximum 10 hours)
Live timing and scoring and circuit commentary at: www.americanlemans.com