The Audi Sport TT Cup heads into its third season with an internationally diverse grid. 16 juniors compete at seven race weekends in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. The driver’s grid, which includes three permanently registered women for the first time, is as young as never before. The juniors from eleven countries average an age of only 18.75 years – meaning the squad is 1.8 years younger than the previous year.

The racing series for up-and-coming drivers has become well established in the supporting program of the DTM and has already enabled various talents to advance into the TCR category and into GT3 racing. For example, Jan Kisiel, the 2015 champion, his runner-up Nicolaj Møller Madsen and Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky each competed in national or international racing series with the Audi R8 LMS in the following year. Sheldon van der Linde, a race winner from last year’s Audi Sport TT Cup, is contesting the ADAC TCR Germany in the Audi RS 3 LMS this year, whilst Joonas Lappalainen has also stepped up to the TCR class. Dennis Marschall and Josh Caygill have earned a promotion to a GT3 cockpit with Audi customer racing teams.

In their careers, the talents benefit from professional coaching in the Audi Sport TT Cup, which facilitates their promotion and advancement. Fitness, medical checks and test drives as well as data analysis and media training are on the agenda. Throughout the season, the juniors can rely on the advice of experienced professionals: the former FIA GT1 champion Markus Winkelhock and the three-time Le Mans winner Marco Werner are at hand as instructors and to help with individual questions.

Not without reason, Audi Sport’s entry-level racing series has attracted more international young talents this year than last season when ten “rookies” competed. In 2017, 14 of the 16 drivers are new on the grid, eleven of them corresponding to the “rookie” category – including Fabian Vettel. The younger brother of Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel has decided to complete his debut season in motor racing with Audi Sport. “We are delighted to welcome such a prominent name to the grid,” says Philipp Mondelaers, who is in charge of the Audi Sport TT Cup. “This year’s cohort represents plenty of international diversity. Our junior drivers have already stepped up in the introductory course. We can expect an exciting season.”

With three female and 13 male drivers from Australia, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland, the Audi Sport TT Cup continues to prove its attractiveness internationally in 2017. The junior drivers can look forward to a race calendar with some challenging tracks. They will race six times as part of the DTM supporting program, and once at one of the largest races in the world at the Nürburgring. As is tradition, the opener and finale will take place at Hockenheim in front of a large audience, sharing a stage with the DTM. On the Nürburgring, the juniors will race in the supporting program of the 24-hour race, then in September they will visit the Eifel a second time. In June, the Norisring in Nuremberg is one of the most-attended motorsport events in Germany. Two races in neighboring countries complete the program: the classic drivers’ circuit in Zandvoort in the Netherlands as well as the Red Bull Ring in Austria rank as some of the most exhilarating challenges in European racing.

At all events, the participants prepare for two 30-minute races in a free practice and a qualifying session. Each of them can rely on a helper. The latter supports their driver with tire pressure, with measuring tire temperature, by giving tactical information using a pit board and by helping with other activities. In addition to tire pressure, there are only two other adjustment options: the driver can have the stabilizers at the front and rear axle tuned to three different grades each.

The preparation and the centralized supervision of the Cup-racing cars guarantees absolute equality of opportunity. All Audi TT cup cars are identical, have a four-cylinder turbocharged engine and a six-speed double clutch S tronic transmission with paddle shift gears. The two-liter engines deliver 228 kW (310 hp). With a push-to-pass system, 250 kW (340 hp) can be deployed for a short time to facilitate overtaking manouvers. The number of times the drivers are allowed to use this function depends on the length of the track. In order to see a tighter field, drivers in the starting rows further back are given more push-to-pass deployments.

However, the Audi TT cup, which is closely related to the production model, represents not only equality of opportunity, lightweight construction and dynamism, but also safety. A welded-in steel roll cage provides a safe cell, whilst the driver's door has a side impact protection and a Kevlar protective layer. A crash foam in the door helps to absorb the occurring energy in accidents. The fire extinguishing system complies with the DTM and GT racing standards, and the safety seat has already proven itself in the Audi R8 LMS. An FIA-certified safety fuel tank with a capacity of 100 liters helps with fire protection.

The best participants can again look forward to a reward in 2017. At the end of the year, Audi will award a grand total of 160,000 euros in prize money. The fastest rookie will be recognized as the 2017 TT Cup Rookie, and the driver with the most points on the table will be crowned the Audi Sport TT Cup Champion. Winning the one-make cup will beckon promotion into Audi’s customer racing program. The Audi Sport TT Cup thus fulfils its status as a career springboard under the banner of the four rings.

Audi Sport TT Cup 2017 dates

05–07 May Hockenheim (D)

25–27 May                Nürburgring (D)

30 June–02 July        Norisring (D)

18–20 August             Zandvoort (NL)

08–10 September      Nürburgring (D)

22–24 September      Red Bull Ring (A)

13–15 October           Hockenheim (D)