With the off-season entering its final weeks, Audi's stable of 18 works drivers completed their winter camp and fitness test before beginning campaigns in sportscars or the DTM.
Supervised by Audi Sport team doctor Dr. Christian John the drivers were subjected to a medical examination checking blood vessels and stamina levels ahead of the racing season. “For every driver who has been with us for a number of years it's possible to draw good comparisons over that time,” says Dr. John. “We've often won races over the last few years, particularly at Le Mans, because our drivers are fit and can drive four consecutive stints at night without any problems. The competition has caught up a little in this respect – but I believe we are still a little bit ahead.”
Drivers also completed a number of endurance test concentrating, fittingly enough for a winter camp, on cross-country skiing, skating and 'snow-shoe hiking'
The winter camp also included team building exercises at Sonnenalp with drivers playing team sports such as football or volleyball to not only keep the level of integration constant for continuing members of the Audi team, but also to integrate the four drivers for whom 2011 will be the first year under Audi's four rings.
“Stamina and muscular endurance are of particular importance in motorsport,” explains Dr. John. “And the same goes for the DTM as it does for Le Mans. In the DTM, drivers must cope with high cockpit temperatures. The races are, however, not so long. At Le Mans more stamina over several hours is required.”
For the nine drivers who will drive Audi's new R18 diesel powered prototype Dr. John has an unfamiliar concern, the new car the first Audi closed coupe design in over 10 years.
“The regulations indeed stipulate that the cockpit temperature may not exceed a certain value,” he says. “But the air in the cockpit is, however, drier and warmer than with an open sports prototype, which is why it will be important to carry a drink bottle on board.”
For the nine drivers – including Scot Allan McNish and eight time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen – the endurance tests are particularly important, training the drivers to be able to drink enough fluid for the longest of stints and cope with cockpit temperatures. The training also included specific exercises to strengthen drivers' necks.
“It is always a hard weeks training but also a good week to get to know and understand your team-mates a better in a non-racing environment,” commented McNish, who begins his season next month in the 12 Hours of Sebring. “Tom, Dindo [Capello] and I are all strong and fit enough but there is still that healthy element of competition between us which makes it a fun week.”