The Head of LMP at Audi Sport explains the targets for 2015.
You unveiled an evolution of the Le Mans winning Audi R18 e-tron quattro for 2015. Why?
Only in 2014 did the FIA WEC introduce fundamentally new and revolutionary efficiency regulations. These regulations provide plenty of scope for improvement. None of the manufacturers involved exploited the limits of the various energy classes available in 2014. We concentrated on further development and doubled the amount of energy generated by our hybrid system from two to four megajoules. We also attached greater importance to the aerodynamics, because we see considerable potential in this area. Even after the first tests our drivers confirmed that the re-engineered racecar feels like a new model.
Audi was strong at Le Mans last year and celebrated a one-two finish, but did not win the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC. How do you aim to win Le Mans this year and fight for the WEC title?
Audi has won Le Mans 13 times. We know very well that it’s impossible to plan a victory there. We’ll do everything to have three R18 e-tron quattro on the grid perfectly prepared and to the highest technical level – with three driver teams that can also do their jobs faultlessly under pressure. A good strategy, a strong team performance, the weather and a portion of luck are just some of the other factors that play a role in this complex race. We have developed different aerodynamic configurations for the WEC again this year. In this way, we can better adapt to the respective demands. A fundamental reason for the title escaping us last year were the points lost at Silverstone. We set the fastest laps there in qualifying and the race, but at the season opener, we had to digest the first and only non-finish ever in the WEC. Whoever wants to fight for the title must do everything to avoid such a situation.
The rules are not an advantage for the Audi R18 e-tron quattro. How difficult will it be this year?
The responsible parties in the FIA, WEC and ACO have the difficult task of balancing completely different technical concepts – including diesel and gasoline engines. The regulations are formalized in such a way that no changes to the classification are planned before Le Mans. Afterwards adaptions are permitted to the newly homologated vehicle generation. We hope that the TDI engine is classified competitively so that we can win races. Four manufactures fight against one another in the LMP1 class this year. We hope to see some eventful and unpredictable races.
The Audi Sport driver line-ups have been reshuffled slightly. What does this mean?
In fact, two of our three teams have never competed together. Only Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer form the same team for the sixth consecutive year. If you look more closely at the changes, they have less of an impact than you think. After our Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen retired, a seat became free alongside Loïc Duval and Lucas di Grassi. Oliver Jarvis, who competes at Le Mans for the fourth time with us this year, complements Loïc and Lucas perfectly. As a result, a generation change at Audi is now complete; after Dindo Capello and Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen became the third driver of this successful trio to retire at the top of his game. Filipe Albuquerque and Marco Bonanomi drive the third car together at Le Mans for the second time. They know each other for many years from the Audi Sport customer racing GT program. Marco won a GT title in Italy with help from Filipe. René Rast also comes from this environment and gets on famously with his two new team mates. He finished his Le Mans debut in 2014 fourth in his class. In this respect, the squad has much more experience than it would appear at first glance.
The WEC competes in Germany for the first time in 2015. What do you expect?
All endurance racing fans can really indulge themselves when sportscars race at the Nürburgring. For around 30 years, there was a great tradition of 1,000-kilometer races in the Eifel. Unfortunately, over the last two decades sport prototypes have only raced intermittently at the Nürburgring – Audi won here in 2004. We hope that as many spectators as possible will take up this attractive offer and support us at the track. For us, the race in the Eifel on August 30 is the end of the first half of the season before we leave Europe for the four overseas races on the calendar. Obviously, we want to leave Europe to start the overseas season with a good result in front of our home crowd.