Following its successful inaugural year with gripping races the Audi one-make cup was fielding a number of innovations this year.
Seven instead of the previous six race weekends were on the 2016 calendar. There were two new and challenging venues – Zandvoort (NL) and Budapest (H), plus the round to be held as part of the program surrounding the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. As before, two races took place at every event, each lasting 30 minutes.
Philipp Mondelaers as the new Project Leader continued Rolf Michl’s successful work. Mondelaers was involved in DTM engine development at Audi Sport until 2010 and in 2011 switched to vehicle development in the customer sport field. At the same time, he was deployed to important events as a race engineer. His track record includes successes in numerous GT events with Audi Sport Team Phoenix and Audi Sport Team WRT.
“I followed the inaugural year of the Audi Sport TT Cup with great interest. In the current season, we had an even stronger field of drivers with a balanced battle through to the last race,” says Mondelaers. “The race calendar underscored the international character of the Audi Sport TT Cup. Our portfolio included two new tracks – Zandvoort and Budapest. The round held during the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring has been another highlight.”
New on board as well was Chris Reinke as Head of Audi Sport customer racing. Reinke, who has a degree in vehicle engineering, is now responsible for the Audi Sport TT Cup as well. Until March 2016, he was Project Leader LMP1 in the sports prototype program with the Audi R18.
125 drivers from 36 nations applied for the 2016 Audi Sport TT Cup. 16 cockpits have been awarded to permanent entrants. In addition, a maximum of eight changing guest drivers, including celebrities and journalists with racing experience, have been contesting the events.
In Markus Winkelhock, the Audi Sport TT Cup participants continued to enjoy assistance by an experienced professional race driver as their coach. Together with the three-time Le Mans winner Marco Werner, Winkelhock serves as an instructor as well. The former Audi DTM driver and 2014 winner of the 24-hour races at the Nürburgring and at Spa is convinced of the Audi one-make cup: “We had a strong field with close competition – as in 2015,” says Winkelhock. “Some promising talents took part in the multi-stage selection process.”
Also in the second season, the Audi one-make cup instantly provided a perfect example of thrilling motorsport with international young drivers. Drivers from 11 nations with an average of just under 22 were on the grid. Four drivers clinched first places and racing talents from seven countries mounted the podium.
Overall winner Joonas Lappalainen got a talent development opportunity in Audi’s successful GT3 sports car program. And, following strong performances in the Audi one-make cup, the other entrants can nurture hopes of a career under the banner of the four rings as well. The 2015 champion Jan Kisiel participates in the Audi R8 LMS Cup this year. Nicolaj Møller Madsen, the 2015 overall runner-up, signed an agreement with Phoenix Racing. In the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup, the Dane drives an Audi R8 LMS. Two other TT Cup drivers – Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky and Loris Hezemans – managed the leap into GT racing as well. In 2016, they were on the grid in the ADAC GT Masters.
Many young race drivers dream of a subsequent promotion to the DTM or the WEC. “For a long time, Audi was fully focused on the top categories of motorsport,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “The Audi R8 LMS is the first race car we have specifically developed for use by customer teams. In the Audi Sport TT Cup, quattro GmbH now offers the opportunity of getting started in racing with Audi as well.”