For the second time this year, Audi is fielding four examples of its new second-generation R8 GT3 car at a major 24-hour race. Although there are two entered under the Phoenix Racing banner and two by WRT, in reality the German and Belgian outfits are operating as one Audi ‘superteam’ for the weekend, indicating just how much store it places in winning here.
Rene Rast (2014 Spa 24 winner with WRT):
“We’ve had no issues so far, we’re sharing setups and working together across the four new Audi cars. Everything’s gone to plan after a good test day.
“The Nurburgring and Spa 24 races are quite different – you’re never on the limit at the Nurburgring, but here you’re always on the limit with the car moving around under you. The biggest difference is the tyres, with the Pirellis here, the overall grip level is a bit lower than the Michelins. We’re still trying to find the optimum setup for them, we’re still not there, but we’re getting there. We’re quite happy with the car, though.”
“We got three track limits warnings yesterday, they’re being very strict so we have to be very careful. It’s difficult for them to judge if people are doing it intentionally or not. Yesterday, I went over some kerbs and felt I was still on the track, but it can turn out you’re two or three centimetres over the line. If you know you can’t make the corner, the best thing to do is lift off and show race contrl that you didn’t gain an advantage.”
“I won’t be joining the Nurburgring WEC test, it’s only the full-season prototype drivers who’ll be there. I hope to get the chance to do more testing this year, but nothing’s confirmed yet.”
Christopher Mies (2015 Nurburgring 24 winner with WRT):
“The accident yesterday was just a little hit, I was pushing a bit too much. Better it happened yesterday than tomorrow! Phoenix knows how to win this race, having won in 2012, and they were pretty strong at the Nurburgring this year. We’re sharing our experience with the new car across WRT and Phoenix. BMW look very strong, both Marc VDS and the ROAL car. I think it’ll be even tighter than last year.”
“If any of the quick drivers in the Pro-Am cars are on you at the start, you just let them go, as you know you’re going to pass them in the first pit stop. These are some of the top GT drivers of course, but the GT3 cars are that little bit easier to drive. It’s nice to have an easy car like this to drive in a 24-hour race, as it’s still quite physical and it still gets quite warm in the car. I haven’t done Le Mans myself, but from what I’ve heard and seen it’s not quite as tiring as here – you couldn’t do four or five stints here, it’s definitely more exhausting.”
Laurens Vanthoor (2014 Spa 24 winner with WRT):
“Officially, you should say pole isn’t important for a 24-hour race, but then again when you’re in the car on low fuel with new tyres and everyone else is the same, it becomes a battle between the drivers to see who’s quickest. You go for it, but you don’t want to crash of course. I don’t think any ‘real’ driver can hold back when you put him in a car with low fuel and fresh tyres!”
“The level of co-operation between the Audi teams depends on the level of involvement from Audi, this year WRT and Phoenix are here as a team for Audi with the new car. Everything works together, the engineers from WRT and Phoenix are there. Last year and the year before it wasn’t quite as ‘official’.”
“The car’s a bit more difficult to drive than on the Nurburgring, we used development tyres that the car was developed on there. Here, the Pirelli is a tyre we haven’t used as much We’ve improved a lot since the test, but it’s still not perfect.”
“Macau is on my list to win this year, everything isn’t confirmed yet as to how we’re going to do it, but there’s a very good chance I’ll be there in an Audi!”
(DSC put the Macau question to Dr Ullrich as well, his response: “We hope to be at the the FIA GT World Cup. We want to have a presence with a strong line-up. We’ve seen what the Formula 3 has done at Macau and how prestigious it is to win there. It’s very positive, we think GTs can do the same.”)