F Features

First Racing Commitment of the Audi R18 TDI

The drivers of the #3 Audi R18 TDI at Spa (left to right): Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello. Photo by Audi MotorsportNow the action will begin in earnest. After thousands of test kilometers including the recent test day at Le Mans, the new Audi R18 TDI is ready for its first race. At the 1,000-kilometer race at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) on May 7, Audi Sport Team Joest will perform its "dress rehearsal" for the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The racing debut of a new race car is always a very special event and Audi Sport has good experiences in this regard. Since 2000 every new sports prototype of the brand with the four rings has won its first race. In 2000, 2006 and 2009 Sebring in Florida (USA) was the venue of the respective debut victories of the R8, R10 TDI and R15 TDI models. The updated R15 TDI, internally designated as "R15 plus," won its maiden race as well, at Le Castellet (France).

Now Spa-Francorchamps is the track to see the debut of the latest LMP1 sports car made by Audi which turns the company’s ultra-lightweight technology into a visual experience and which is equipped with a new type of ultra-compact V6 TDI engine. The circuit in the Belgian Ardennes region is seen as particularly demanding and therefore well suited as the "dress rehearsal" for the season’s pinnacle at Le Mans on June 11/12. Audi Sport Team Joest learned a lot at Spa-Francorchamps last year as a month later, Audi celebrated a one-two-three result with the R15 TDI and broke the 39-year distance record.

The squad led by Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich would again like to decide the "dress rehearsal" in its favor, given that the 1000-kilometer race at Spa-Francorchamps is also the second round of the newly incepted Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC).

"We want to mainly use the race at Spa-Francorchamps again to prepare for Le Mans. It’s important for the teams to develop a feeling of working together in a racing situation before going to Le Mans. We’ve already started to work on this at our 30-hour endurance run at Le Castellet and the test day at Le Mans. But Spa also gives us a first assessment of where we stand compared with the competition. For us the 1000-kilometer race is a very important preparatory race for the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours," said Dr. Ullrich.

At Spa-Francorchamps speed and reliability will not be the only crucial factors as a massive 60-car entry comprising of sports prototypes and GT vehicles have entered the race. Consequently, the 7.004-kilometer track will be extremely packed.

"I’m always particularly keen on going to Spa. With a new car like the R18 TDI the race will be very interesting for us and the fans. It marks the first occasion that all our main rivals will be on track at the same time, so everyone looks forward to qualifying with particularly eager anticipation - at least I do. The track is arguably one of the top three for any driver. The weather at Spa though is usually unpredictable. Last year it was raining on the grid while the track was bone dry on the other side. We’ve tested the Audi R18 TDI a lot this year. We understand the potential of the new car and know that we’ve got to get into a racing situation now to see how the car performs in different conditions. Tom (Kristensen), Dindo (Capello) and I are looking forward to being part of the whole action again. We know from last year that Spa is a replica of Le Mans. We’ll be represented there with all three race teams. That adds further spice to this race," said Allan McNish, co-driver of the Audi R18 TDI #3.

Practice in the Ardennes will start as early as on Thursday. Qualifying is scheduled for Friday afternoon. The 1,000-kilometer race will start at 14:05 on Saturday and last a maximum of six hours.

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