As the 24 Hours of Le Mans draws ever closer, head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich has been explaining how Audi have racked up 11 victories at the legendary race at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Dr. Ullrich has been at the helm of Audi Sport since 1993 and his first signing for the team was Emanuele Pirro, who remained at Audi for 15 years before becoming a brand ambassador for the company. Alongside Pirro were Dindo Capello and Frank Biela, who remained with Audi for 19 and 18 years respectively. All three drivers went on to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Biela and Pirro winning five times apiece.
Audi will also be forever linked to the outstanding success of Tom Kristensen, with his record eight wins at the race. Alongside Kristensen are Allan McNish and Marco Werner. Racing alongside Audi’s seasoned veterans are the new generation of Audi’s Le Mans charge. Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marco Fassler have been unbeaten at Le Mans since 2011 and won the inaugural FIA World Endurance Championship in 2012.
“We’ve always managed to make our drivers feel like ‘Audians,’” says Dr. Ullrich. “The brand with the four rings supports us in this. Audi has always clearly indicated how important successes in motorsport are and that the brand likes to see the race drivers as ambassadors. Our drivers are proud to be able to compete for the Audi brand that is so successful.”
“The talent has got to be very strong, but it’s not strictly about sitting in a car for a longer period of time and driving consistent lap times anymore, Today, we need drivers who manage to complete a real 24-hour sprint in the team without making any mistakes. That’s why we’ve always signed driver personalities who caught our attention with their performance potential and ability to assess risks, and who thus rarely had accidents.”
A characteristic of the Audi Le Mans set up was the repeating of driver combinations, with Capello, Kristensen and McNish racing alongside each other for seven years since 2006, one of the longest serving driver combinations in Le Mans history.
“Accordingly, finding a successor for Capello after the end of his career was a major challenge,” says Dr. Ullrich. “We were seeking someone who was driving at a very high level and who was well-matched with the personalities of the other two. In Loïc Duval, we found a superb solution.”
Heading in to the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans, Fassler, Treluyer and Lotterer will arrive full of confidence, with two consecutive Le Mans victories and Championship glory in the 2012 World Endurance Championship.
“This is a combination of three exceptional talents,” concluded Dr. Ullrich. “Here, a squad has formed that has absolute trust in each other. And every member is on a great performance level. This means we’ve got three absolute sports car stars together in one car. And they’ve personally grown so close together that they’re extremely united and thus exceptionally strong.”
The 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans will be held on June 22-23, with the French flag scheduled to start the race at 3pm local time.