Since it's 2006 debut, the Audi R10 TDI has raced exclusively in the American Le Mans Series except for the annual June trek to France for the big all-day race. This past weekend a pair of R10s campaigned by the Joest team made their first run in the European Le Mans series with a second place finish in season opener at Barcelona. The Audis were again competing against the pair of Peugeot 908 HDi coupes which won the European championship last year. The Audi of Dindo Capello and Allan McNish finished second to the Peugeot of Nicolas Minassian and Marc Gené. The second Audi and Peugeot finished 5th and 6th respectively. The Barcelona race, like most of the European races, was more of an endurance run with a length of 1,000km compared to the 2-3 hour sprints that make up most of the American series. Audi is planning to run both the full European and American seasons this year with Joest handling the duties overseas while Champion Racing campaigns the cars in the ALMS. Unfortunately, it appears that we won't be seeing the Peugeots stateside again this year. Hopefully they will at least come over to participate in the Petite Le Mans at Road Atlanta in the fall.
Audi clinches podium at LMS début
# Second place for Prémat/Rockenfeller at Barcelona
# Alternator belt deprives Capello/McNish of chance for victory
# Audi Sport Team Joest scores points with both Audi R10 TDI cars
Ingolstadt/Barcelona – Less than 24 hours after its victory in St Petersburg Audi clinched another podium result with its R10 TDI sportscar: the two Audi youngsters Alexandre Prémat (26) and Mike Rockenfeller (24) finished the 1000-kilometre race at Barcelona (Spain), which marked the début of Audi Sport Team Joest in the European Le Mans Series, in second place overall following a flawless drive.
In springtime weather, spectators lining the Circuit de Catalunya on the outskirts of Barcelona witnessed thrilling duels between the world's fastest sports cars, particularly in the early stages of the race. Allan McNish in his Audi R10 TDI, after accelerating and overtaking one of the two Peugeot 908 prototypes, which had started from the front row, took the lead after one hour. The Scot defended his lead almost up until the end of the second hour when a puncture of the left rear tyre and a broken alternator belt forced him to make two unscheduled pit stops in short succession. McNish and his team-mate Dindo Capello lost a total of six laps and dropped to 18th position. In the remaining four hours, they fought back and made up ground again to fifth place in the field of 47 cars, capturing four valuable points in the drivers' Championship.
The Audi R10 TDI driven by Alexandre Prémat and Mike Rockenfeller covered the entire distance without any technical problems whatsoever. The two youngsters had started the race from sixth position on the grid and continuously moved forwards without taking any unnecessary risks in the heavy traffic. Thanks to consistent lap times and good pit stops performed by Audi Sport Team Joest they were even leading the field during part of the race. At the finish, they just had to admit defeat to the Peugeot 908 driven by Marc Gené and Nicolas Minassian.
The next race of the Le Mans Series is scheduled to take place only three weeks from now on 27 April, at Monza (Italy).
Quotes after the race at Barcelona
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "Second place in the first race of a new racing series is basically not a bad way to start. Unfortunately, this weekend we were lacking the speed as well as the required reliability. It was evident today that even in a 1000-kilometre race you can't afford to make any mistakes. We'll continue working on this. Particularly positive for me is the result achieved by our youngsters Mike Rockenfeller and Alexandre Prémat, who did everything right today and stayed in control in heavy traffic. That Dindo Capello and Allan McNish lost their chance for victory due to a technical problem is really unfortunate."
Alexandre Prémat (Audi R10 TDI #2): "I'm very satisfied with my first race in the LMS. After all, it was my first endurance race ever. And to finish it in second position with the Audi R10 TDI straight away is a rewarding experience. Things weren't easy for us here. We had to learn a lot, and on a demanding track at that. The heavy traffic in particular was an unusual experience for me. I'm happy that 'Rocky' and I clinched eight points. I want to thank Audi and Joest for the great job they did this weekend."
Mike Rockenfeller (Audi R10 TDI #2): "As far as the result is concerned, Alex and I are satisfied with second place. We weren't quick enough today to have done better on our own power. The important thing for us was to finish the race. It was Alex's first endurance race and he did a superb job. We can build on that. We're going to the next race at Monza with more self-confidence and assurance. I think we'll be even faster there. But here as well as anywhere else: the crucial factor in a championship is not to win every race but to score good points every time, and we managed that today."
Dindo Capello (Audi R10 TDI #1): "A small technical problem caused a delay and cost us the race and I'm certain, having been with Audi Sport for 14 years that they will react to these issues we've suffered here at Barcelona and in Sebring this year. Audi is famous for speed and reliability and I know that everyone back in Germany tomorrow will be working very hard and striving to achieve these goals once more. I'm certain that at Monza we will be fighting again for victory."
Allan McNish (Audi R10 TDI #1): "To have any chance of a victory we had to attack immediately. I was able to snatch second place at the start and at the full course yellow, the team did a stunning job to leapfrog me ahead of the leading Peugeot. I was able to control the race and pull out a little gap to the Peugeot but unfortunately we got a puncture on the left rear which was immediately detected by our tyre pressure monitoring system. About 10 laps afterwards, the alternator belt broke costing us six laps in the pits which effectively put us out of contention. However we fought hard for the remaining four hours and came back to fifth position. We are currently not quite fast enough right now and we also have a couple of reliability issues. We all must work hard before the next race."
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): "I'm very happy for Alex and 'Rocky'. Alex finally had the chance to get some racing mileage in a sportscar and did an incredibly great job. He was quick, didn't make any mistakes and learned a lot. 'Rocky' was good as well. The boys are up and coming, I'm convinced of that. I was really thrilled with car #1 in the early stages: Allan (McNish) drove like a world champion. The problem with the generator belt was really unfortunate. Something like this shouldn't happen. We need to investigate the cause because the defect destroyed Allan's and Dindo's (Capello) race. Making up ground to finish fifth is a nice achievement. Whether we could have won against Peugeot is hard to say. It would have definitely been a close fight."
The result at Barcelona
1 Gené/Minassian (Peugeot) 215 laps in 5h 59m 30.812s
2 Prémat/Rockenfeller (Audi R10 TDI) - 1 laps
3 Mücke/Charouz (Lola-Aston Martin) - 3 laps
4 Boullion/Collard (Pescarolo-Judd) - 5 laps
5 Capello/McNish (Audi R10 TDI) - 6 laps
6 van Merksteijn/Verstappen (Porsche) - 7 laps
7 Primat/Tinseau (Pescarolo-Judd) - 7 laps
8 Pompidou/Belicchi/Zacchia (Lola-Judd) - 8 laps
9 Elgaard/Nielsen (Porsche) - 11 laps
10 Barbosa/Ickx/Short (Pescarolo-Judd) - 11 laps