Audi have reiterated that they are approaching the 2009 Sebring 12 Hours as mere preparation for this summer's Le Mans 24 Hours, this despite claiming second and fourth in the grid for the first endurance race of the season.
The Florida event signals the debut for the new R15 TDI, but while they were surprisingly beaten to pole position by the de Ferran Acura, Audi did manage to upset their arch-rivals Peugeot by snaring a front row slot.
In the midst of a close qualifying battle that saw the top five separated by just three tenths of a second, Audi snared positions two and four, with the Allan McNish - Tom Kristensen – Dindo Capello machine in front.
Blaming some traffic on his best lap for not being able to turn around the 0.082secs deficit to the Acura, Kristensen was nonetheless happy to go second ahead of what they are treating as a Le Mans test session.
"Wow! It would have been really cool to have made a debut pole for the R15 TDI,” the Dane said. “We had pole but it was snatched away on the last lap of qualifying which was very close and exciting. Our focus is for the race and a successful warm-up for Le Mans but as a driver, of course I wanted the pole.
“I could have been luckier as it took until my seventh lap before I had a clear lap out of traffic. I had to back off and make space. Thankfully I had enough diesel in the car so I could do the extra laps. We're eagerly looking forward to the race."
Audi motorsport director Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, meanwhile, hinted that the team will come on strong in the race having chosen not to spend time fettling a set-up for qualifying in favour of finding a better race package.
"The grip level in qualifying was not at the same level as the previous practice sessions. I would also like to reiterate that we are here to prepare for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Therefore, we have not spent any time setting the car up specifically for qualifying.
“We have seen here at the very first meeting that the various vehicle and car concepts are very closely matched. We will now try to make a good race collecting as much experience as possible for Le Mans."