In an interview, Rolf Michl, Project Manager of the Audi Sport TT Cup, provides insight into Audi’s new one-make cup.
In the Audi Sport TT Cup, Audi is launching a new one-make cup. Could you briefly explain the concept of the cup?
First of all, we’d like to demonstrate the racing qualities of the car in the Audi Sport TT Cup and ‘boost’ the production model as a sports car in the process. The Cup offers talented young international drivers an opportunity to enter Audi’s motorsport world. For us, it’s a good way to evaluate young driving talent on a broad base for further development within the Group.
Can you describe the selection process?
We received 165 applications from 30 nations. This large number of applications from all over the world has confirmed to us that the Audi Sport TT Cup will be drawing a lot of attention, both nationally and internationally. We carefully looked at every single application and in a multi-stage selection process chose the 18 drivers who now have the opportunity to prove themselves in the Audi Sport TT Cup.
At the fitness camp in early March, the entrants met each other for the first time. What findings did these five days produce?
It was fascinating to see how quickly the 18 young women and men became a team. That meant we achieved our first aim for the fitness camp. The participants will be rivals on track but when they’not racing in the classification rounds we’d like them to learn as much as possible from each other in their development process – with respect to the sport as well as to character building.
From the fitness camp in the Allgäu you immediately traveled to Spain for testing. What were your impressions of the participants doing their first kilometers in the new race cars?
For me and for everyone in the team, it was an impressive experience when the engines of the Audi TT cup were started and the entrants went out for the first time. I’m really impressed about the performance of the car. Our young drivers did an outstanding job too. Our instructors, Markus Winkelhock and Marco Werner, were full of praise for how quickly the 18 entrants got used to the race car and how meticulously they worked out their individual set-up.
You mentioned the instructors. Can you describe the cooperation with Markus Winkelhock and Marco Werner?
Both are bringing an incredible wealth of motorsport experience to this project that they’re passing on to the participants. Markus’ track record includes being an FIA GT1 World Champion and victories in the 24-hour races at Spa and on the Nürburgring. Marco is a three-time winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours. We’re very happy about both of them supporting this project. In our first meeting, we immediately felt the intensity of their passion for it. The young talents trust them and profit from their knowledge. The right chemistry was present immediately.
The average age of the field is 21. Do the talents have any previous racing experience in spite of their young age?
Yes, they do. The majority of the drivers has experience from other motorsport categories, from kart and formula racing through to smaller touring car series. In spite of their young average age it’s important for us that our drivers learn all the various elements of motorsport at an early stage. Besides on-track driving, this includes a few options they have for changing the set-up. Every participant can have the mechanics make individual changes to defined components. This includes adjustments of the front and rear stabilizer, the traction control system (TCS) and differential settings in three defined modifications. In addition, the drivers can have the tire inflation pressure changed within specified limits by the assistants assigned to them.
What is your outlook of the Audi Sport TT Cup inaugural season?
The participants, partners and fans of the Audi Sport TT Cup can look forward to six fantastic events as part of the DTM. The German events are traditionally held in front of a large crowd. Hockenheim, the Norisring, Oschersleben and the Nürburgring are great names we really look forward to. A lot of spectators usually travel to the Red Bull Ring in Austria as well. Because the entrants could choose their own car color we’re going to see a competitive field that will be very attractive visually as well.”