Audi Sport GmbH employs more than 1,100 people at its sites in Neckarsulm, Ingolstadt and Neuburg an der Donau. About 40 of them are active in the DTM project. Five of these racing jobs are explained in detail.
Preparation for setup and racing. No one knows the approximately 4,500 individual elements of the Audi RS 5 DTM as well as Thomas Schiekofer. From the first set-up of the six factory cars at the beginning of the year to their last race of the season, the logistics expert from Ingolstadt supplies the three DTM fielding teams Abt Sportsline, Phoenix and Rosberg as well as the customer team WRT with all the necessary components. In Audi Sport’s spare parts truck, Thomas Schiekofer and his colleague Andreas Hörmann bring about 10,000 spare parts to the DTM circuits.
“From the smallest bolt to the completely assembled front end, we have everything with us,” says Schiekofer. Two to three reserve engines of the high-efficiency four-cylinder turbo engine are also in the luggage. On race weekends, various carbon parts of the bodywork have to be replaced most frequently after skirmishes or accidents.
“A high sense of responsibility is the most important prerequisite for my work,” says Schiekofer. “If I don’t have something in stock at the track, in the worst case that means that one of our drivers has to forgo a race.”
Organising the operation. To have factory drivers, the Head of Audi Motorsport, project managers, technicians, mechanics, marketing and PR people, all men and women of the Audi Sport DTM team always in the right place at the right time during tests and races: This is solely in the hands of Stefanie Medele. The business economist from Neuburg an der Donau organises everything for the event from Spa to Hockenheim: hotels, visas, flights, rental cars, shuttles, catering, offices, telephone, internet, insurance, medical and physio team, paddock and pit passes, even the fuel for the six Audi RS 5 DTM cars.
“You need a very good overview and a very long line of patience,” says Medele. Always being able to react flexibly to changes in schedules and plans is also a key characteristic for her and is particularly in demand in the 2020 season, which is marked by the corona pandemic. Perfect English is a basic requirement anyway.
“It’s great in my work to have direct contact with so many different people, companies, authorities, countries and cultures,” says Medele. With 14 years of service, she is one of the most experienced employees at Audi Sport.
Chassis/bodywork development and design coordination. Benedikt Brunninger has two tasks at Audi Sport: The mechanical engineer from Ingolstadt develops the chassis and body of the Audi RS 5 DTM together with four colleagues. After the introduction of turbo technology in the DTM in 2019, only very limited design changes were permitted for the 2020 farewell season. Brunninger also coordinates the cooperation with the two other design departments at Audi Sport, the electrical and complete vehicle departments.
“In addition, I am the first technical contact person for our three works teams and our customer team,” adds Brunninger. Because Audi has its DTM works cars completely dismantled and rebuilt after each race weekend, there is a constant flow of enquiries. In the DTM Technical Working Group, designer Brunninger represents Audi, where he regularly discusses the regulations with DMSB, ITR and other manufacturers.
The biggest professional motivation for him? Brunninger: “Motorsport gives you permanent feedback on the track and on the stopwatch. And there it always has to go forward.”
Electrics and electronics. Gabriel Foddis is responsible for the trouble-free flow of current in all Audi RS 5 DTM cars. He checks all cables and contacts, control units and sensors, radio and measuring equipment, even the steering wheels with their numerous switches, controls and displays. The electrical specialist from Ingolstadt has been working for Audi Sport for more than 30 years. “Everything that comes in for revision, I check with a design colleague. We always decide together what to repair or replace with a new component,” explains Foddis.
Being able to concentrate solely on parts testing is his most important job skill. “Errors in the electrical system are rarely visible at first glance, so you have to be totally focused when searching and hide everything else,” Foddis knows. “In motorsport there is no later or tomorrow, there is only immediately and quickly.”
For Gabriel Foddis, the very first attempt at starting a completely newly developed Audi racing car is one of the most beautiful moments of his work. “You're as close to tears as the day your child runs for the first time,” he says, describing his premiere feelings.
Strategy. Fredrik Åhslund, as Chief Strategist of Audi Sport, is one of the people who is crucial for the race results. In the engineers’ truck, the IT specialist monitors the practice and qualifying sessions as well as the races of all DTM drivers on ten screens and five laptops. From the mass of data, he constantly creates new forecasts with the analysis software he developed himself. And sends every new recommendation regarding decisions to Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass and DTM Project Manager Andreas Roos as well as to the operations managers of Abt Sportsline, Phoenix, Rosberg and WRT.
“Experience is just as important as data,” says Åhslund. The computer expert from Falun in Sweden can “read” car races. It is usually crucial to recognise the best possible moment for the compulsory pit stops: “That is pure high tension. You mustn’t miss a thing, even if one of your drivers slows down just a moment or an opponent catches up minimally.”
Fredrik Åhslund joined Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline 20 years ago with the then future DTM Champion Mattias Ekström and changed to Audi Sport in 2012. Between races, the strategy expert develops hardware and software at home in Sweden in his own IT company.