• May 22, 2007


It's no secret that Audi hasn't had as successful a season so far in the American LeMans Series with its diesel-powered R10 racers compared to last year. As it had begun doing last season, the ALMS has instituted regulations designed to slow down the dominant R10s in their LMP1 class, effectively making even the cars in the more contested LMP2 class faster. For instance, Audi's fastest car placed second overall in last week's Utah Grand Prix and third overall in the prior week's Grand Prix of Houston, both times behind cars in the LMP2 class. Last year, an Audi R10 driver was highest on the podium at every race of the season.

This is why Audi is so amped up for the 2007 24 Hours of LeMans where the LMP1 class is supreme and unhindered by these stifling regulations. This year, however, Audi will be up against a formidable opponent in Peugeot's 908 HDi FAP racer, which is also powered by a diesel motor, though fitted with two more cylinders than the R10.

Recognizing that LeMans remains as the sole race to demonstrate its dominance, Audi has decided to field a third car in addition to the two that are being shipped over from the ALMS series. The third car will be obviously badged "car number 3" and driven by three donated drivers from Audi's DTM team: Alexandre Préma, Mike Rockenfeller, and Lucas Luhr (shown above left to right). A third set of wheels will obviously give team Audi a better shot at overall victory, especially considering that, over the course of 24 hours of racing, it's likely one of the cars will suffer a race-ending fate.

[Source: Audi]



PRESS RELEASE:

DTM drivers strengthen Audi team at Le Mans
  • Third Audi R10 TDI for Luhr/Prémat/Rockenfeller
  • Experienced Le Mans drivers in the two other R10 TDI cars
  • Mattias Ekström is reserve driver for Tom Kristensen
For the first time since their triple victory in 2002, AUDI AG will be fielding three factory cars again in the Le Mans 24 Hours. The DTM drivers Lucas Luhr (27/Germany), Alexandre Prémat (25/France) and Mike Rockenfeller (23/Germany) are going to drive a third Audi R10 TDI (car number 3) in the French endurance classic on 16/17 June. Former DTM Champion Mattias Ekström (28/Sweden) is Audi's reserve driver in the event that Tom Kristensen (39/Denmark) should not be fit in time for racing again.

"The race at Le Mans poses a new challenge every year," commented Audi Head of Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. "By fielding a third car, we are increasing our chances of again being successful. Experience has certainly shown us how quickly a team can 'lose' a car at Le Mans. The costs incurred for a third vehicle versus a two-car team are reasonable."

Mattias Ekström, Lucas Luhr, Alexandre Prémat and Mike Rockenfeller proved their abilities to race at Le Mans in tests at Paul Ricard (France) in early April by setting consistently fast lap times. "All four left an outstanding impression, " explained Dr Ullrich. "We opted for the combination of Luhr/Prémat/Rockenfeller because we want Mattias to concentrate on the DTM, in which he has good chances of winning the title. Le Mans is exactly between two important DTM races at Brands Hatch and the Norisring. "

The Swede will only drive on 16/17 June in the event that the seven-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen has not received medical approval to race. "At the moment we're assuming that Tom will be fit again by the time of the Le Mans race, but of course there's no guarantee for this," said Dr Ullrich.

The Dane sustained a severe whiplash trauma in the DTM season-opening race at Hockenheim on 22 April. Only two days after the crash he was able to leave hospital and has since been recovering from the accident at home in Denmark. "Basically, he's doing well," said Dr Ullrich. "However, when he subjects himself to excessive physical strain, Tom does not yet feel totally fit. These are normal symptoms after this kind of accident. At the moment, no doctor can predict when he'll be fit again."

As a precaution, Audi Sport will nominate Mattias Ekström as a reserve driver for the race at Le Mans. On 3 June at the Le Mans test day, the Swede will take the wheel of the Audi R10 TDI (car number 2) and familiarise himself with the 13.650-kilometre circuit. His team-mates will be Dindo Capello (Italy/42), who has already won the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice, and Allan McNish (Scotland/37), who was triumphant at Le Mans in 1998 but is still waiting to clinch his first Le Mans victory with Audi.

The number 1 Audi R10 TDI will be driven by last year's race winners Frank Biela (Germany/42), Emanuele Pirro (Italy/45) and Marco Werner (Germany/41), who – between them – have a total of ten Le Mans victories under their belts.

"I'm convinced that by deploying our seasoned drivers, who rank among the world's absolute elite of sportscar drivers, and our promising juniors, we are well prepared for the battle against Peugeot, " said Dr Ullrich. "At the same time we are giving three young drivers the big chance to fight for overall victory at Le Mans for the first time. This is also a part of our motorsport concept."


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  • 14 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      "...Audi will be up against a formidable opponent in Peugeot's 908 HDi FAP"

      To the best of my knowledge, the 908 has never run longer than 3 hours in race conditions, while the R10 has Sebring, Le Mans and an entire ALMS race season under its belt.

      One of a million parts on the 908 could break at Le Mans and there's no way to know what will happen after 10, 11 20 hours of racing.

      Prediction: Audi 1,2,3 at Le Mans with both 908 DNF ing.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Although I don't have the best knowledge of Puegeot's testing schedule, I'm sure they've ran the 908 through it's paces. This isn't something they decided to do on a whim, it's been several years in development.

        I won't be so bold as to predecit that they'll take the checkered flag, I would put money on them making the podium. Stop being such an Audi fanboy and look at things from a logical perspective.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The R10 is a V12. The 908 is a V12. No extra cylinders here.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Todd, I agree with your prediction. The 908's just don't have enough long endurance runs under their belt to hope to compete at LeMans. I think that they might just try and have one 908 at least finish the race although it might be several minutes even hours behind the R10's.
      • 7 Years Ago
      @ J

      They're fielding three, one over the normal amount. It's not like they are going way over the norm, like, say, 7 cars. Maybe they want a 1-2-3 finish, so that Peugeot will have absolutely nothing to celebrate at the end of the race. And besides, what if this is the R10's last year with Porsche buying Volkswagen? Going out with a 1-2-3 finish would be a good way to end the R10 and start the Porsche LMP1 car.
      • 7 Years Ago
      F1 has a 2 car per team limit but Red Bull has two teams. If they instituted a 2 car rule in Le Man they could just say that it was an AUDI team and a Volkswagen team or Skoda or SEAT or Bentley or Lamborghini or Bugatti. What is the difference?

      As great as the LMP cars are it is much cooler to me to see the production based cars in Le Mans. In 40 years I doubt that the Le Mans winning AUDI R10 TDI will be as big of a collector item as the Le Mans winning Ferrari Testa Rossa auctioned recently.
      • 7 Years Ago
      #12:

      If VAG was ever to try to get into F1, I suspect it would probably end up being under the Lamborghini name. There were rumors that the Gallardo's V10 was partially created as a design exercise for a possible future F1 car. Also, if the rumored diesel V6 engines were ever introduced, VW already has a lot of experience with diesels, which would give them an advantage in developing one for an F1 car.
      • 7 Years Ago
      In the 1966, Ford fielded eight GT40 Mk.IIs to enhance its chances of beating Ferrari. It worked, too, Ford finished 1-2-3, with team orders used to arrange a photo finish.

      As for the maximum number of cars per team in F1, there was some talk a few years ago that if then-Minardi went under that Bernie would have to order Ferrari and McLaren to run a third car so that he could meet the minimum field he guarantees to promoters. Might have been just the usual F1 rumor, though.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I don't say this bitterly at all, tho it might sound like it, but Audi's run in motorsports has mostly been about exploiting a technical advantage nobody else thought of and running away with it.

      Auto Union type-C: mid-engine
      Audi Quattro: 4WD
      Audi 90 Quattro Trans-Am: 4WD
      Audi R8: quick-change rear end (banned)
      Audi R10: diesel

      As much as I'd hate to see it happen, it looks like they've done all they can do with endurance racing. It might be time for them to try an F1 car that rides on a cloud of air or a 6-wheeled MotoGP bike.
      • 7 Years Ago
      @3, 7

      The prototypes are the technology testbeds for future production cars. That's why I pay attention to both F1 and LMP1 cars, maybe someday some of the technologies used will trickle down to average-consumer-level cars.
      • 7 Years Ago
      In the 1966, Ford fielded eight GT40 Mk.IIs to enhance its chances of beating Ferrari. It worked, too, Ford finished 1-2-3, with team orders used to arrange a photo finish.

      As for the maximum number of cars per team in F1, there was some talk a few years ago that if then-Minardi went under that Bernie would have to order Ferrari and McLaren to run a third car so that he could meet the minimum field he guarantees to promoters. Might have been just the usual F1 rumor, though.

      The more important reason for a 2-car limit in F1 is the Constructor's Championship.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I love their Teutonic sports car dominance but Auto Union's wasting their time there. They need to be back in F1, which might not be possible, given VAG's unclear status with Porsche's takeover in progress. Toyota & Honda's massive spending with little visible result muddies the racing waters further. Vague analogies aside, the result might bring Porsche back into F1 someday instead of Audi. A GP fan can dream . . .
      • 7 Years Ago
      Audi's the ACO's lap dog. They would threaten to pull out of the series, and the ACO would concede.
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