Thursday, 12 April 2012
Interview with Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich
“You demonstrate your sportiness by being
successfully active in sport”
Two more weeks to go before the 2012 DTM starts
Interview with Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich
Background information on AUDI AG’s successful DTM commitment
Ingolstadt, April 12, 2012 – Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich played an instrumental role in
shaping the new DTM regulations. Here is a keynote interview with the Head of
Audi Motorsport on the start of the DTM season at the Hockenheimring on April
29 and the expectations of Audi Sport.
Dr. Ullrich, in 2012 the DTM begins a new era and you’ve been intensively
involved in creating it. What was special about preparing for the new DTM season
in your view?
The three manufacturers involved jointly developed a completely new set of
regulations – including numerous standard components. This has never been the
case before in this form and is no doubt very special. The regulations raise the safety
standards to a level previously unknown with touring cars while reducing the single
costs of the vehicles.
What is the significance of the DTM for Audi?
The DTM makes it possible for us to be active in top-caliber motorsport close to the
product – and largely in Audi’s home market Germany – which continues to be an
important one for us.
How does the result in the DTM impact on the Audi brand?
Our customers and potential customers of course take note of success in
motorsport. It automatically reflects on the sportiness of the brand. The best way to
demonstrate your sportiness is to be – successfully – active in sport. Through our
motorsport successes we can no doubt continue to positively influence Audi’s brand
You’ve been at the helm of Audi Sport since 1993. Are the four rings ingrained in
your heart after such a long time?
I’ve always been absolutely convinced of the Audi brand. I’m with Audi because for
me it’s the automobile brand with the most exciting and successful history – and I
am proud helping to shape this.
The three German premium automobile manufacturers, Audi, BMW and
Mercedes-Benz, are competing against each other for the first time in 20 years.
What are you expecting of the 2012 DTM? And not strictly speaking in a sporting
This is a great opportunity for the DTM to yet again improve its position as one of
the best touring car series. I personally believe that we’ve even got the chance to
jointly get the world’s best touring car series off the ground. Obviously, this means
that the three manufacturers will also have to work together a lot, aside from the
competition on the track. My wish is that even during the racing season we’ll be able
to continue to collaborate in the good spirit that existed for a whole year during our
Now that there are three manufacturers, how does this affect the collaboration?
Like in a sandbox, it generally tends to be more difficult when there are three
players than just two. But the spirit that has been prevailing so far in the first year of
preparing for the DTM makes me look toward the future with optimism.
The sporting aim for 2012 can only be: title defense – right?
It goes without saying that our aim is to defend the title. Yet our first aim is to have
cars that are in contention for victory. And then we want to do everything within our
means to defend our title. It’ll no doubt be even more difficult than in the past – but
with our driver line-up and three proven teams, all of which are starting into the new
DTM with equal opportunities, we should be in a very good position. The DTM has
been and will continue to be a matter of teamwork.
Have Audi and Mercedes-Benz got advantages with their DTM experience?
Naturally, experience gives you a minor advantage. On the other hand, a brand new
entrant may have the benefit of doing certain things in a different way, which may
prove to give them a minor advantage. It’ll be very interesting.
In your assessment, how strong is newcomer BMW?
BMW has been very intensively preparing for the DTM for more than a year and, just
like Audi and Mercedes-Benz, developed a new car according to new regulations
which are the same for everyone. In view of the touring car know-how that BMW has
gathered in many years of work in the field, we’re expecting to meet with a very
strong rival – and that’s exactly our assessment of BMW right from the first race
There will even be more identical parts in the DTM than before. Considering this,
how can a manufacturer individually stand out from the competition?
The identical parts concept does not impair this. You can develop a defined area of
aerodynamics; you can make manufacturer-specific developments of the
suspensions. The engine is a specific component for each manufacturer. Even the
overall package can be optimized by each manufacturer within certain limits. That’s
why I certainly see sufficient possibilities for all manufacturers to not only develop
the outer shell specifically for their brand but additional components that are
relevant to success as well. From the 4,000 parts of an A5 DTM just about 50 are
What are the special features of the A5 DTM in your view?
For me, the A5 DTM is the most beautiful car of the three new DTM vehicles. Plus, I
think that in terms of providing the base, the A5 is a very good car for the DTM that
not only looks good but which our guys have also turned into a very good race car.
I’m hoping that in the A5 we’ll have a car in our hands that is good and in contention
for victory right from the first race on.
What are the areas in which the A5 DTM is particularly innovative?
Principally, we’re talking about a lot of detailed work in the DTM. Particularly in the
area of aerodynamics and suspension kinematics all manufacturers have tried to
work out their little advantages – and, naturally, we’re hoping that we’ve
successfully managed to do this.
The engine was adopted from the “old” DTM. When will the DTM opt for new
technologies, such as a hybrid system like the one used in the new Audi R18 etron
We didn’t want to take too many steps at once. That’s why we initially adopted the
existing engines for the new vehicles. This engine concept has been proving its
viability for many years. Room for a hybrid system has already been reserved in the
vehicle concept though. We will jointly define if and when it will make sense for the
DTM to switch to a different engine concept.
How important would be – or is – the DTM as a topic in Japan and in the USA?
For Audi, the USA is no doubt very important. And Japan is a prestige market as well.
This means that Audi has a strong interest in also being able to show its presence in
these two countries that are important to the brand. The three manufacturers and
the ITR are working together on taking the DTM to both Japan and the United
States. But everyone should be clear about the fact that this is not something that
will happen very quickly. It requires a lot of detailed work. If you want to turn this
into a really good thing, you need patience and time.
Back to the 2012 season: Six vehicles were originally planned, now there are
eight. How did this come about?
Last year, we were already poised to field eight vehicles in the DTM and are
assuming that in 2013 all manufacturers will put at least eight cars on the grid. Due
to the fact that we had to develop an extremely challenging hybrid car – the Audi
R18 e-tron quattro – for the Le Mans 24 Hours and a completely new DTM vehicle in
a parallel project, we were initially planning for seven cars for 2012. I’m pleased to
see that now the opportunity of fielding eight cars has materialized. I’m convinced
that in view of the DTM’s high caliber it’s advantageous to put the maximum
number of cars on the grid. It’ll probably be very close – but one additional vehicle
also means one additional opportunity. And an even number makes more sense than
an odd number in terms of logistics and team effort.
In the past, there were many behind-the-scenes discussions about a lack of
overtaking in the DTM. Based on the track tests, are there any findings of how the
situation will look with the coupes?
On the A4 DTM we had a large number of very small aerodynamics components
especially at the rear that would quickly be damaged in incidents of slight body
contact and then severely change the car’s performance. Accordingly, it was
necessary to drive in a way that would prevent the risk of suffering an aerodynamic
disadvantage. The new regulations are trying to stop this. Of course that doesn’t
mean that the drivers can now constantly run into each other’s cars. But I do believe
that the rules will at least be conducive to more duels – and thus more overtaking
What can the fans expect of the new DTM in general?
The three German premium manufacturers in a high-caliber championship with
vehicles that visually are heavily oriented to well-known and popular production cars
should thrill any true touring car fan. In its new form, I see the DTM as the world’s
strongest touring car series, albeit one that is just moving into its first year in this
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