With Porsche now reigning over the Volkswagen auto empire, we can expect to see synergies between the small sportscar maker and all its new subsidiaries over the years to come. One of the first such opportunities has actually emerged in reverse out on the race track, as Audi Sport has ported over two of Porsche's most successful drivers to its Le Mans team.
Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas have scored nine victories – including at Sebring, Daytona and the Nürburgring – along with two consecutive LMP2 titles behind the wheel of the Porsche RS Spyder in the American Le Mans Series, not to mention both contesting the main event in France several times with other teams to considerable effect. The two will be joining Audi's roster of endurance racers in the new R15 TDI at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In the words of Audi motorsport chief Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (which you can read in full in the press release after the jump) the team is "pleased that withing the Group the opportunity now presents itself to have [Bernhard and Dumas] race for us at Le Mans."
Bernhard and Dumas reinforce Audi at Le Mans
Porsche endurance specialists to compete in new R15 TDI
Audi driver lineup for 24 Hours of Le Mans now complete
Ingolstadt/Stuttgart – The Audi driver lineup for the 24 Hours of Le Mans is complete: by signing Timo Bernhard (28/Germany) and Romain Dumas (31/France) Audi managed to engage two absolute endurance specialists for the most important sports car race of the year.
Driving a Porsche RS Spyder Bernhard and Dumas were the most successful driver pairing in the LMP2 class of the American Le Mans Series in the past three years. They clinched a total of nine overall victories for Porsche and, ultimately, won the LMP2 title twice in a row.
"Without a doubt, Timo and Romain rank among the world's best sports car drivers," says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "We've come to know them in the American Le Mans Series as tough but fair rivals and are pleased that within the Group the opportunity now presents itself to have them race for us at Le Mans. We're convinced that Timo and Romain will definitely strengthen our driver squad. With victories at the 12-hour race at Sebring, the 24-hour race at Daytona and at the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring under their belts they've already proven their skills as real endurance specialists."
Le Mans is not unknown territory for the two Porsche "factory" drivers either: Bernhard has so far contested the French endurance classic three times and in 2002, at his Le Mans debut, celebrated victory in the GT class straight away. Dumas has started from the Le Mans grid as many as eight times – most recently twice in an LMP1 car entered by the Pescarolo team in which he finished third overall in 2007.
"Winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans is any sports car driver's dream, that's why we are extremely happy about the opportunity to contest Le Mans for Audi," unanimously say both Porsche "factory" drivers. "Both of us are really excited and looking forward to the Audi R15 TDI."
The two will test AUDI AG's new diesel racing sports car that won at its debut event, the 12-hour Race at Sebring (USA), right away as early as in April. The combinations of the total of nine Audi drivers starting from the grid at Le Mans on June 13/14 will be decided in the next few weeks.
With Timo Bernhard (Germany), Dindo Capello (Italy), Romain Dumas (France), Tom Kristensen (Denmark), Lucas Luhr (Germany), Allan McNish (Scotland), Alexandre Prémat (France), Mike Rockenfeller (Germany) and Marco Werner (Germany) Audi Sport Team Joest's driver lineup is arguably as powerful as it can be.