When a major automaker shuts down its racing program like Peugeot did at Le Mans, it leaves a big gaping hole for everyone involved. The French automaker's departure from endurance racing left the series organizers scrambling for another team to take its place just as it was preparing to inaugurate the new FIA World Endurance Championship. It left Audi – the Diane Sawyer of Le Mans racing, to borrow an analogy from Talladega Nights – without its Katie Couric. And arguably most of all, it left Peugeot's roster of highly skilled drivers without a ride.
Easily among the most talented of these drivers is Marc Gené, the driver who helped Peugeot clinch the checkered flag at La Sarthe in 2009. A longtime factory test driver for Ferrari (and one time grand prix driver for Minardi and Willaims), Gené has a wealth of experience that couldn't very well be left untapped. So it should come as little surprise that Audi has scooped him up.

Although the German automaker already has a full roster of pilots – proven race winners, no less – at its disposal, it has found room for Gené as a reserve driver. In this capacity Gené will be filling in for an uninjured Timo Bernhard to drive the #3 Audi R18 Ultra together with French drivers Romain Dumas and Loïc Duval at Spa-Francorchamps in just a couple of weeks, and will undoubtedly be on hand to jump into the cockpit at Le Mans in June should duty call.
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MARC GENÉ IS NEW RESERVE DRIVER AT AUDI

-2009 Le Mans winner augments Audi squad
-Spaniard brings sports car victories and Formula 1 experience to the team
-Timo Bernhard's recovery is progressing


Ingolstadt, April 17, 2012 - Audi is reinforcing its sports car line-up with another driver. The Spaniard Marc Gené will be available to Audi as a reserve driver, standing in for Timo Bernhard in the Audi R18 ultra as early as at the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Spa-Francorchamps on May 5.

This year, Audi again decided to sign a reserve driver for the Le Mans 24 Hours. Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich selected Marc Gené for this role, a very experienced sports car racer who brings long-standing Formula 1 experience to the team as well. The 38-year-old Spaniard has been under contract as a test or race driver with Formula 1 racing teams since 1999. He also contested the past five events of the Le Mans 24 Hours, clinching overall victory in 2009. After Timo Bernhard was injured in a testing accident that was no fault of his own in mid-March and is still recovering, Gené will be sharing the number "3" Audi R18 ultra with Romain Dumas (F) and Loïc Duval (F) at Spa.

"At our first meetings I immediately had the impression that Marc (Gené) will blend well with our sports car squad," emphasises Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "We very quickly reached an agreement. It's very unfortunate that Timo Bernhard won't be able to compete for us at the second WEC round at Spa as planned. At the same time, I'm pleased to see his recovery making significant progress. That's why we're sticking to our original plan of having him run at the Le Mans 24 Hours."

This is not the first time for Audi to rely on a reserve at the most important endurance race of the year. Following Lucas Luhr (D) in the 2010 season and Marco Bonanomi (I) last year, Marc Gené's nomination as a reserve driver marks the third one in succession. After ten Le Mans victories, Audi will be fielding the first ever diesel hybrid sports car in history with all-wheel drive at La Sarthe in the summer - the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro. Like its conventionally powered sister model, the Audi R18 ultra, it will be celebrating its race debut three weeks from now at Spa.


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