Round five of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Austin in the U.S. state of Texas has a particularly high significance for Audi. In America, the brand?s sports car program began 14 years ago, Audi won the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) nine times in succession and the Sebring 12 Hours eleven times ? most recently in March. Furthermore, the sales statistics in America have been developing positively for Audi for years. At Austin, on September 22, the brand with the four rings is aiming to achieve its second sports car victory in the United States this year. It would mark the sixth consecutive win for the Audi R18 e-tron quattro as well.
Totally new territory: The 5.515-kilometer Circuit of the Americas south-east of Austin was only inaugurated last year. Neither Audi Sport Team Joest nor the six factory drivers know the challenging roller-coaster track featuring 20 turns and 41 meters of vertical difference. Just like most recently at São Paulo, the entrants will be running counter-clockwise in the WEC round at Austin ? a direction that is unusual in racing. While the drivers are preparing for the track by studying videos and practicing in the simulator, the engineers of Audi Sport have calculated the conditions for the Audi R18 e-tron quattro?s run in advance by means of mathematical simulations.
Audi Sport Team Joest may be facing another challenge. Outside temperatures above 30 degrees centigrade are not unusual in this region in September. In 2000, when the Audi R8 won at Dallas/Texas, the thermometers even rose to above 40 degrees.
Aside from the competition in the field, the two Audi driver squads are not cutting each other any slack either. Most recently, cars number ?1? and ?2? were separated by just five hundredths of a second in qualifying in Brazil. Each of the two teams has celebrated two WEC victories this year. In the drivers? World Championship, the Le Mans winners Loïc Duval/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish (F/DK/GB) continue to be the front runners. But Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer (CH/D/F) have reduced their gap by eight to 22 points at São Paulo. And Austin only marks the beginning of the second half of the WEC season.
The reliability of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro is a staple in this fierce sporting competition. Ever since its debut in the 2012 season, the trend-setting diesel hybrid sports car has clinched eight victories, five of them in succession since March 2013. The efficient World Championship winning race car has never retired due to a technical defect to date.
But North America is not only important territory for Audi in motorsport. The new-car market in the United States has seen a positive development as well. By the end of 2012, 139,310 premium automobiles of the brand were sold in the United States, 18.5 percent more than the year before. Thus, Audi of America within five years increased the customer base of the four rings in the USA by nearly 50 percent (2007 deliveries: 93,506 cars). Growth continued in the first half of 2013. From January to June, the number of Audi deliveries in the United States went up by another 14 percent compared to the same period of the previous year.
Fans will be able to watch the race in Texas on the internet as well. Audi is broadcasting the action by live streaming on www.audi-motorsport.com. Additional information is available via the Audi Sport App, on Twitter and Facebook.
Topics of the weekend
-Will Audi achieve its sixth LMP race victory of the season at Austin?
-Will the season?s first ?hot? race be awaiting the teams in Texas?
-Will the gap in the standings between Loïc Duval/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish and Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer continue to shrink or will the Le Mans winners be able to extend their advantage?
-Will the new circuit at Austin become one of the drivers? favorite tracks?
-With how much enthusiasm will the Texan spectators receive the WEC?
Quotes by the officials
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): ?Austin promises to be a technically challenging track. The drivers judge it to be at a very high level. I?m hoping for our squad and the car to be doing well there right away. It?s an important race in a very significant market for Audi, so we?re aiming to achieve a good result.?
Chris Reinke (Head of LMP): ?For Audi, America is a very important market for production cars and we?ve celebrated many victories in racing there as well. We?re aiming to do so again. Continuing our string of victories holds the greatest sporting appeal, with the race track being absolutely new territory for all of us adding a further thrill. We?re rigorously preparing for this variety of challenges.?
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): ?For Audi Sport Team Joest, contesting a round in America is almost like running in a home race ? after all these years in the American Le Mans Series. We?ve never been to Austin though. We?re looking forward to it ? not only to the track but to the attractive city as well.?
Facts and quotes by the Audi drivers
Marcel Fässler (37/CH), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
-Celebrated his second WEC victory of the season with his team-mates at São Paulo
?At Austin, besides a sensational race track beautiful surroundings are awaiting us. I really like driving in America because all the races there have a special atmosphere. The track was very demanding even in the simulator. The combinations of turns with their different speeds and the radii make for a rhythm we?ve got to get used to first. Positioning the car with great precision is another important aspect on the relatively wide track. We?re all looking forward to this race.?
André Lotterer (31/D), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
-After the race at São Paulo, flew to Peru and then to New York
?We?re competing on a race track that?s new for all of us. We?ve got two possibilities to prepare for the event: studying videos of other racing series and working with the simulator. On location, we?ll have to familiarize ourselves with the track as quickly as possible. I?ve heard a lot of positive comments about this track. The first section at Austin reminds me of the circuit at Suzuka. But there are several hairpins as well, which are typical for new tracks. I?m excited about the mix and hoping for our R18 e-tron quattro to be fast there too.?
Benoît Tréluyer (36/F), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
-Together with his team-mates the Frenchman reduced the gap in the standings by eight to 22 points
-Has celebrated a previous victory in the USA this year with Marcel Fässler and Oliver Jarvis
?I like driving in the United States and am very much looking forward to Austin. America has an enthusiastic racing audience. I?ve watched footage of a few racing series that have run there. It?s an interesting track and I always enjoy getting to know new circuits.?
Loïc Duval (31/F), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
-Married his partner Gaëlle on Saturday after the race at São Paulo
-Is getting to know a new race track for the second consecutive time
?After São Paulo, Austin is the second track I?ll be racing on for the first time this year. Even on television the track looks really beautiful. It?s hilly, technically challenging, is very fast in some places and has several long corners. It seems to be a good mix that?ll definitely be great fun in the R18 e-tron quattro. And Austin is an attractive city as well.?
Tom Kristensen (46/DK), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
-The Dane drove the fastest race lap at São Paulo
-In 2002, was ALMS Champion in America with Audi
?I?ve always particularly enjoyed racing in the USA. I?ve only heard good things about the track and the surroundings so far. Each lap will offer some variety. Sector 1 contains many fast turns, sector 2 is shaped by hairpin turns and sector 3 is a Mickey Mouse section with many slow corners. So that requires driving stability at high speed, good acceleration power and a very agile car for the last sector.?
Allan McNish (43/GB), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
-In 2000, 2006 and 2007 won the ALMS title in America with Audi
-In 2007, was best Audi driver and LMP1 class winner at Houston when Audi last drove a race in Texas
?The track at Austin inspires a lot of enthusiasm ? in Formula 1, in the sports car scene and among motorcycle racers. The circuit features very fast sections, as well as narrow hairpin turns, long straights and a winding last section. We expect high temperatures and together with our tire partner Michelin have got to thoroughly prepare for this. I?ve celebrated many big successes in America. The fans at Austin can look forward to a nice sports car festival when the WEC and the ALMS are running on the same weekend.?
The Audi drivers at Austin
Loïc Duval (F): * June 12, 1982 in Chartres (F); residence: Tokyo (J); married to Gaëlle, one son (Hugo); height: 1.78 m; weight: 70 kg; Audi driver since 2012; Le Mans victories: 1; WEC races: 7; WEC victories: 3; WEC pole positions: 1; fastest WEC laps: 1; best result WEC Austin: ?
Marcel Fässler (CH): * May 27, 1976 in Einsiedeln (CH); residence: Gross (CH); married to Isabel, four daughters (Shana, Elin, Yael and Delia); height: 1.78 m; weight: 78 kg; Audi driver since 2008; Le Mans victories: 2; WEC races: 12; WEC victories: 5; WEC pole positions: 2; fastest WEC laps: 1; best result WEC Austin: ?
Tom Kristensen (DK): * July 07, 1967 in Hobro (DK); residence: Monaco (MC); single (partner: Hanne), two sons (Oliver and Oswald) and one daughter (Carla Marlou); height: 1.74 m; weight: 72 kg; Audi driver since 2000, Le Mans victories: 9; WEC races: 12; WEC victories: 3; WEC pole positions: 0; fastest WEC laps: 2; best result WEC Austin: ?
André Lotterer (D): * November 19, 1981 in Duisburg (D); residence: Tokyo (J);
single; height: 1.84 m; weight: 74 kg; Audi driver since 2010; Le Mans victories: 2; WEC races: 12; WEC victories: 5; WEC pole positions: 3; fastest WEC laps: 2; best result WEC Austin: ?
Allan McNish (GB): * December 29, 1969 in Dumfries (GB); residence: Monaco (MC); married to Kelly, one son (Finlay), one daughter (Charlotte Amelie); height: 1.65 m; weight: 60 kg; Audi driver in 2000, since 2004; Le Mans victories: 3; WEC races: 12; WEC victories: 3; WEC pole positions: 2; fastest WEC laps: 1; best result WEC Austin: ?
Benoît Tréluyer (F): * December 07, 1976 in Alençon (F); residence: Gordes (F); married to Melanie, one son (Jules); height: 1.78 m; weight: 68 kg; Audi driver since 2010; Le Mans victories: 2; WEC races: 12; WEC victories: 5; WEC pole positions: 2; fastest WEC laps: 0; best result WEC Austin: ?
Track length: 5.515 km
Race duration: 6 hours
Qualifying record on this track: ?
Race record on this track: ?
Pole position 2012: ?
Fastest lap 2012: ?
Loïc Duval about the track at Austin
?Austin is new on the calendar. The starting straight is an unusually steep uphill section. This results in a late braking point in front of a hairpin turn where body contact may be hard to avoid. A series of five fast turns follows where it?s crucial to have good aerodynamics. The fluid rhythm is slowed a bit by the tapering of turn 8. This makes the car a bit calmer on approaching turns 9 and 10. A short straight is followed by the next hairpin turn where several cars fit side by side. It?s important to accelerate early for the next straight at the end of which there are good overtaking opportunities. The radii of turns 13 and 15 almost mirror each other. The next triple right-hander requires courage and a good line. After a left-hand turn, a hairpin leads back to the start and finish.?
Timetable (local times, CEST?7 hours)
Friday, September 20
09:15?10:45 Free practice 1
15:25?16:55 Free practice 2
Saturday, September 21
08:40?09:40 Free practice 3
Sunday, September 22
11:00?17:00 6-hour race