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Petit Le Mans is Le Mans preparation for Audi

Can we once just say we are here to win this race! We are here to defend and beat Peugeot, Acura and anyone else who wants to challenge the Audi R15 TDI…

Petit Le Mans is Le Mans preparation for Audi
  • Two Audi R15 TDI cars in U.S. endurance classic
  • Test run for next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans
  • Audi aims to continue string of exploits with TDI Power

The countdown for the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours is underway. In preparation for the sports car highlight of the year, Audi Sport Team Joest will contest the U.S. endurance classic “Petit Le Mans” at Road Atlanta (U.S. state of Georgia) on September 26 with two Audi R15 TDI cars.

The inaugural “Petit Le Mans” race was held in 1998 and has been bringing Le Mans flair to the United States ever since. The 1,000-mile race near the U.S. metropolis Atlanta helped launch the American Le Mans Series in which Audi was the dominant brand from 2000 to 2008. The exploits of the Audi R8 and the Audi R10 TDI over the past nine years have helped Audi achieve a better development of its business in the difficult U.S. market than other premium brands. With 8,057 vehicles sold, Audi most recently recorded the second-best August result in Audi of America’s history.

By competing in the popular “Petit Le Mans” race, Audi Sport supports the market launch of TDI technology in North America: Since April 2009, the Audi Q7 TDI 3.0 has been available in the United States; in December, the Audi A3 TDI 2.0 will arrive at U.S. dealerships.

The Audi R15 TDI demonstrates the high performance capabilities of a TDI power-plant. The Audi engineers extract over 600 hp from the 5.5-liter V10 TDI engine that celebrated an important victory on its racing debut in March: Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish at the wheel of the brand new LMP1 vehicle immediately won the 12-hour race at Sebring (Florida).

On the other hand, the R15 TDI’s Le Mans debut that ended in a third-place finish did not go according to Audi’s plans. The aim is for Audi Sport Team Joest to gather more racing experience with the technologically innovative racing sports car at Road Atlanta which will then be fed into the further development of the R15 TDI for 2010.

The vehicles being fielded in the U.S. race are unchanged except for adaptions suiting the special characteristics of the track at Road Atlanta. During tests at Vallelunga (Italy) in early September various set-up versions for Road Atlanta were compared.

Although the race mainly serves as a test run for Le Mans 2010, Audi would like to continue its string of exploits in the U.S. endurance classic: The brand with the four rings has contested the “Petit Le Mans” race nine times so far and each time an Audi crossed the finish line as the winner. Six races were won by the Audi R8, and three by the Audi R10 TDI.

The last three victories for Audi were clinched by the driver team Dindo Capello (Italy)/Allan McNish (Scotland) who will again be competing together and targeting a fourth consecutive triumph, a feat no driver has achieved to date. The “sister car” designated as car number 1 will be driven by the reigning ALMS Champions Lucas Luhr and Marco Werner (both Germany), who took third place last year at Road Atlanta.

Practice at Road Atlanta will start on Wednesday. Qualifying will be held on Friday afternoon. The race will start on Saturday at 11:15 am local time and will cover a distance of 1,000 miles or a maximum of ten hours into the night.

Quotes before the “Petit Le Mans” race

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “The fielding of our cars at Road Atlanta marks the first part of our preparation for the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours. It shall help our engineers to learn more about the new Audi R15 TDI in direct competition with strong rivals. You can simulate a lot of things during rig and track tests but nothing can replace the accurate data gained in actual racing events. At the same time, we’re pleased about the opportunity to start from the ‘Petit Le Mans’ grid again. Audi has had huge success there in the past few years. Particularly the two most recent, extremely thrilling races will be remembered by the fans. We’d like to continue our series of good results there. We’ve got a great car in the Audi R15 TDI and a highly motivated team.”

Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “We’re happy to be able to contest a race again three months after Le Mans. We want to show that the R15 TDI is better than it looked at Le Mans. I think that the track at Road Atlanta should suit the car pretty well. Still, it won’t be an easy race for us. With twelve LMP1 cars on the grid, it’ll be a real battle that will probably be heavily shaped by tactics as well. Last year, there were ten caution periods. Getting everything just right will be crucial – and of course a little racing luck is necessary as well. For us as a team it’s important to quickly find the right rhythm again after the break; the drivers and mechanics have not contested any races since Le Mans. That means that everyone is looking forward to ‘Petit Le Mans’ with even greater anticipation – both the team and the drivers.”

Lucas Luhr (Audi R15 TDI #1): “Of course I’m incredibly happy about the fact that we’re contesting another race this year – originally, that wasn’t planned. And, what’s more, we’re going to ‘Petit Le Mans,’ which is one of the best races in America on a fantastic circuit. I’m really looking forward to it even though the first laps at Road Atlanta with the R15 TDI will probably feel a little unusual: Since Le Mans I haven’t really driven the R15 TDI any more, except for the aerodynamics tests – but that was just straight-line driving. But this shouldn’t be a problem for me – and neither should the fact that I didn’t get into a car again right after my accident at Le Mans. I’ll try not to think about that but will fully concentrate on the things to come.”

Marco Werner (Audi R15 TDI #1): “Finally, we’re racing again! We’re happy to be in action again. It’s been a long time not having really sat in a race car since Le Mans. That means you start burning and are hot to race. We’re tremendously looking forward to ‘Petit Le Mans,’ even though we realize that, particularly for Lucas (Luhr) and me, it’ll be an extremely tough race. We haven’t contested a race for a long time and, unlike our team-mates, were not even able to test since Le Mans. The drivers who regularly compete in the ALMS are more attuned to the rhythm. For us, it’ll be a little like starting all over again.”

Dindo Capello (Audi R15 TDI #2): “It’s hard to make a prediction. For us, the race is primarily a test run in preparation for next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. But for me, personally, the goal after five victories in just six ‘Petit Le Mans’ events is clear: I want to continue the results from recent years. We’re sure that we’ll be competitive. That’s why we’re confident that we’ll be able to clinch a good result for Audi.”

Allan McNish (Audi R15 TDI #2): “I’m very happy about being able to contest a race again. I think everyone on the team feels that way. ‘Petit Le Mans’ has been a fantastic event for over ten years – and for Dindo (Capello) and me it’s also been a very successful one. I’m expecting strong competition by Acura, more than at Sebring, because they’ve contested a relatively large number of races since then and understand their car better. And of course the battle with Peugeot continues. After the podium result at Le Mans we’re shooting for more at Atlanta.

The schedule at Road Atlanta

Wednesday, September 23
14:00 – 14:30 Test session (prototypes)
14:30 – 15:30 Test session (all classes)
15:30 – 16:00 Test session (GT vehicles)

Thursday, September 24
10:05 – 11:05 Free practice
15:20 – 16:20 Free practice
19:20 – 21:05 Night practice

Friday, September 25
09:00 – 10:00 Free practice
14:25 – 14:50 Qualifying (GT vehicles)
14:55 – 15:20 Qualifying (prototypes)

Saturday, September 26
08:15 – 08:40 Warm-up
11:15 – 21:15 Race (1,000 miles or max. 10 hours)

– Audi Motorsport

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