26 April 2014
Audi rebuilds with sights set on Spa recovery
Audi is in a race against time to prepare three cars for the second WEC round at Spa, intensified by the rebuilding of both cars damaged at Silverstone last weekend.
Audi has spent the past week both physically and metaphorically rebuilding after a disastrous start to its 2014 World Endurance Championship campaign at Silverstone.
With round two of the series set for Spa-Francorchamps on 3 May, preparation for the Belgian event has been particularly intensive, enhanced by the team's commitment to run a third car alongside its regular entries.
The two accidents at Silverstone were unfortunate for Audi in two respects, not only because Dr Wolfgang Ullrich and Chris Reinke had to endure the retirement of both cars and the total loss of championship points as main rival Toyota took a 1-2 finish, but also because the incidents caused considerable damage to both monocoques. Cars #1 and #2 will have to be prepared completely from scratch ahead of Spa, with the reigning world champions tackling an extreme workload between Easter and the start of May, but Ullrich is determined that his squad bounces back in Belgium.
“We've got to prepare two new cars between now and Spa, which imposes an extreme load on the squad,” the head of Audi Motorsport confirmed, “Then we're going to concentrate on running an impeccable race. At Spa, we want to rectify the unfortunate race at Silverstone. In the past years, Spa was a very good track for us….”
By comparison, the preparation of a third race car seems almost routine. Audi has traditionally used the six-hour race at Spa to prepare its Le Mans squad for the year's most important event. Whereas Lucas di Grassi/Loïc Duval/Tom Kristensen and Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer are set to compete in all eight WEC rounds, the #3 R18 e-tron quattro will only run at Spa and Le Mans, as Marco Bonanomi joins debutant Filipe Albuquerque in the cockpit. Oliver Jarvis has been released from his scheduled duties at Spa and the Le Mans test as he will be battling for championship points in the Japanese Super GT racing series.
All three Audi squads will be united in a single aim in the Ardennes as, following victories in 2012 and 2013, it will look to bounce back from its Silverstone disappointment. The fastest single lap set by Kristensen in qualifying at Silverstone, and the best race lap achieved by Lotterer, show that the diesel hybrid is quick enough to compete with rivals Porsche and Toyota, but Audi will hope to be able to show that over the entire race distance second time around.
“We all have the aim of showing that Silverstone was an absolute exception,” team d director Ralf Jüttner noted, “We're now in the unusual position of the hunter and need to score points. The team will be giving everything. We'll be on the grid with three newly-prepared cars. We're definitely not lacking motivation. We're going to strike back.”
At Spa, running car #3 continues an idea which Audi tested for the first time last year. The additional race car has a different body that can be recognised at first glance by the longer rear overhang. Using it in Belgium is very valuable for the Audi engineers, as the data generated by the car assists in validating previous simulations. By the same token, the team can also test how to handle the special body version and other technical modifications in racing conditions.
“We're definitely going to attack again at Spa!” Head of LMP Reinke concluded, “Within only two weeks, the team has had to handle a tough workload. After the somewhat rocky start of the season at Silverstone, it's now particularly important for us to focus on our next tasks until Le Mans. The squad has to get used to its processes. But Spa is more than just a test for Le Mans. We aim to win in Belgium and score points for the WEC.”
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