Audi Motorsport have confirmed their plans for the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours and ILMC season, re-signing all nine drivers who scored a 1-2-3 finish at the French endurance race for another campaign.
At Le Mans – June 11-12 – the drivers will team up exactly as they did in 2010. Timo Bernhard, Mike Rockenfeller and Romain Dumas taking the no.1 plate aboard their Audi Sport Team Joest run R18 coupe – a further reward for the win they took last year. Eight time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen will join up with Allan McNish and Dindo Capello in the most familiar of modern Audi driver line-ups and the third car will be shared by Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer. The same teams will also contest the 6 Hours of Spa, which not only fills it's now traditional role of Le Mans dress rehearsal but also forms the second round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC).
“Over the last few years we've had a very strong and harmonious driver line-up at Le Mans,” Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich explains the motivation behind the consistency. “Any one of our three cars could have won, which explains why it was our aim to compete with an unchanged driver squad at Le Mans in 2011. I'm delighted that we achieved this. Now we can concentrate solely on the development of the Audi R18 and need not integrate any new drivers into the team, which would have been associated with additional work and risks. The schedule to Le Mans is tight enough as it is.”
Audi will contest the full six round ILMC which starts with the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 19, where the Audi name will return after sitting out the 2010 race.
However, instead of the new R18 Audi unveiled in December the team will use two R15 cars, modified to comply with the new rules introduced for the 2011 season. The R18, as announced at its launch will make its race debut at Spa after an extensive test schedule involving all nine drivers.
Unlike the cars the drivers aboard will remain constant – Bernhard, Rockenfeller and Dumas in one car, Kristensen, McNish and Capello in the other amongst a field larger than has graced the Sebring track in recent years.
The remaining four round of the ILMC – Imola, Petit Le Mans and the finale in China – will see a two car entry from Audi Sport Team Joest with two drivers in each car – McNish/Kristensen and Bernhard/Fassler the planned duos, though Romain Dumas will be available for Petit Le Mans should the squad need reinforcing for the 10 hour or 1000 mile race at Road Atlanta.
The full sportscar program is just one part of Audi's racing plans in 2011, with the manufacturer also involved in the DTM series where Mike Rockenfeller will run the full season, a commitment that, says Dr. Ullrich, keeps him from running the full ILMC season.