Sunday 2 October 2011

Disappointing Petit Le Mans for Audi

Disappointing Petit Le Mans for Audi

􀀁 Romain Dumas pushed off the track in battle for the lead
􀀁 Second Audi R18 TDI withdrawn after several collisions
􀀁 Strong performance by Audi Sport Team Joest goes unrewarded

Ingolstadt/Road Atlanta, October 1, 2011 – The 1,000-mile “Petit Le Mans” race
at Road Atlanta (U.S. state of Georgia) was extremely disappointing for Audi. In
the battle for the lead Romain Dumas in the Audi R18 TDI #1 on lap 297 became
fautlessly entangled in an accident that forced him to retire. After several
collisions, Audi Sport Team Joest took the second Audi R18 TDI out of the race
early for safety reasons.
For seven hours the Audi fans had reason to hope for the brand with the four rings
clinching victory at the prestigious US endurance classic. Timo Bernhard, Romain
Dumas and Marcel Fässler in the Audi R18 TDI designated as car number “1” fought
some thrilling battles with the competition. It took Marcel Fässler only eight laps to
bump the Peugeot that had started from the pole position from position one for the
first time.
Although the Audi trio acted very cautiously in the extremely heavy traffic on the
about 4.088-kilometer track and avoided body contact the three Audi drivers were
able to achieve an advantage of a full lap over their immediate rivals some of the
time. This advantage was destroyed when debris from another car lying on the track
clogged one of the radiator ducts of the R18 TDI, which required an unscheduled pit
stop. A 20-second stop-and-go penalty cost additional time.
Bernhard/Dumas/Fässler consistently stayed on the leading lap nevertheless and
managed to close the gap to the leading Peugeot again with fast lap times. At the
end of the seventh hour Romain Dumas launched a first attack against Franck
Montagny during which there was some slight body contact in the chicane before
the start and finish and the Audi driver lost five seconds. Only a few laps later
Dumas caught up with the Peugeot again. When the Peugeot touched a GT vehicle
Dumas at the start of the parallel straight was able to move alongside Montagny
but was squeezed out by the Peugeot driver in the acceleration phase. While trying
to avoid a collision with the Peugeot, Dumas brushed a GT vehicle and heavily hit
the wall. That put a disappointing end to the race of the number “1” Audi R18 TDI
which had been outstanding up to that point.
The sister car – number “2” – lost all chances of victory as early as in the starting
phase. Tom Kristensen had two incidents of body contact with slower cars right at
the beginning. The first one led to a puncture and a damaged hood. Later on, Allan
McNish was hit in the rear by a GT vehicle. In addition to suspension and body parts,
the clutch had to be exchanged which caused car number “2” to lose over an hour
and drop back to a hopeless position. Because the various body contacts had also
caused problems with the steering, Audi Sport Team Joest decided to take the car
driven by Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish out of the race after 302
laps for safety reasons.
Quotes after the race
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “I’m very disappointed. We were
battling for victory for seven hours and were leading several times. Our best car and
the best Peugeot were always just separated by a few seconds. Unfortunately,
Romain Dumas was barged off by the leading Peugeot while he was trying to
overtake it. This resulted in contact with a GT vehicle that had to be lapped and an
accident leading to retirement. This was an extreme shame because we had the
performance to win this race. I think it wasn’t necessary to fend off Romain’s attack
in such a brutal way – that’s not the way to act in endurance racing, especially at
such high speeds. The second car became entangled in several minor collisions early
on and was out of contention for victory after a longer repair despite driving the
times of the front runners. We congratulate Peugeot on their victory and the ILMC
title. Nevertheless, there is an aftertaste today which is not so pleasant.”
Dindo Capello (Audi R18 TDI #2): “Audi has generally delivered a strong
performance yet again. We showed that we’ve got a fast car. But unpredictable
incidents prevented us from reaping the fruits of our labor. As far as our car is
concerned, we had a few collisions today that could have been avoided by the drivers
of slower cars. That cost us our race early on. After a long repair I did a triple stint
which in my opinion was a good comeback after the race at Le Mans. In that respect
I’m satisfied by the disappointment for the whole team naturally outweighs things.
Our ‘sister car’ had the chance to win the race. It’s a shame for Timo (Bernhard),
Romain (Dumas) and Marcel (Fässler) who would have deserved better than this.”

Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 TDI #2): “I’m extremely disappointed. I feel particularly
sorry for everyone in the Audi team who worked incredibly hard. We had several
incidents with our car right in the beginning, which caused us to lose some ground.
The clutch change hit us particularly hard. The mechanics did a great job in that case
too that went unrewarded. I think it must have been fantastic watching these races
– at least over longer stretches. But some of the incidents were a bit much from my
perspective. We need to think about what can be improved in this respect in the
Allan McNish (Audi R18 TDI #2): “There were many cars on track here and we knew
that the traffic would cause problems. Tom (Kristensen) had slight body contact
very early on which caused us to lose some ground. We had recovered pretty well
when I overtook some GT cars and an LMP cut me a bit. I braked and was hit in the
rear by one of the GT cars. I spun and the car was pretty heavily damaged. On the
way to the pits the clutch broke too. We were ultimately forced to retire because
after all these hits which the poor car had to take in this race we had problems with
the steering. It was a bit disappointing for Tom (Kristensen), Dindo (Capello) and
me. We had the feeling that we had a well-balanced car that we could have been in
contention for victory with.”
Timo Bernhard (Audi R18 TDI #1): “I think that the whole team around car number
‘1’ did an exceptionally good job today. This particularly applies to the pit crew but
also to us drivers – Romain (Dumas), Marcel (Fässer) and me. We didn’t make any
mistakes, constantly stayed on the same lap with the race leader despite a stop-andgo
penalty and were always within a striking distance to victory. The end
unfortunately came very abruptly. We didn’t deserve that because we fought hard
and always stayed fair in the process. We had a good rhythm and found the right,
calculated risk. Unfortunately, Franck Montagny overdid it and barged off Romain
(Dumas) who hit a slower car in the process. That was unfair. I’m very disappointed
about Montagny.”
Romain Dumas (Audi R18 TDI #1): “Right from the start we had a well-balanced
car. We knew that we had to avoid accidents despite the heavy traffic. That worked
out well. All three of us did good stints although we drove cautiously. I caught the
leading Peugeot and tried overtaking it for the first time. Even then we already had
slight contact. The second time he had previously had contact with a GT Porsche and
lost some speed. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. Franck Montagny
knew that I was going to pass him and deliberately drove on my line. Maybe I was
too nice because I steered to the left in order to avoid a collision and hit the slower
Porsche in the process. A very stupid maneuver on Montagny’s part.”

Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 TDI #1): “I had a good start but had to let Sébastien
Bourdais in the Peugeot pass. But afterward the car was so good that I was able to
catch up with and even overtake him. All in all, we had a very competitive car that
not only worked well for me but also for Timo (Bernhard) and Romain (Dumas). Even
after minor problems we were always able to make up ground again. I think the
whole team and also we, the drivers, did everything right in that respect. The
maneuvers by Franck Montagny were clearly not fair. It’s not right to squeeze others
out and you could see the result. That’s a shame because the spectators would have
deserved a good finale. And we would have deserved staying in contention for
victory all the way up to the end.”
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “That was no doubt one of
the most disappointing races I’ve ever experienced. The number ‘2’ car was kind of
getting in its own way a bit today and became entangled in collisions. That led to
long repairs and the battle for front positions was over early on. Afterward we used
it as the car to test the tires for car number ‘1’. They were always running at the
front and battling for the lead, and also leading the race some of the time. Right at
the time when Romain (Dumas) was about to recapture the lead, Franck Montagny
in the Peugeot defended himself with a – in my opinion – questionable maneuver.
That ended in the wall for Romain. After that we pulled number ‘2’ out of the race
for safety reasons after the telemetry showed us that there were problems with the
steering. It’s a shame because we clearly had the pace for winning today.”

Audi Sport.

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