'IT'S JUST LIKE AN AUDI' Sebring, Fla. - Frank Biela was asked what he thought of the new Audi R10, a car that clearly has become near and dear to his heart. His answer was quite telling: "It's just like an Audi." Given the German...
'IT'S JUST LIKE AN AUDI'
Sebring, Fla. - Frank Biela was asked what he thought of the new Audi R10, a car that clearly has become near and dear to his heart. His answer was quite telling: "It's just like an Audi."
Given the German manufacturer's long and sustained campaign of excellence in the American Le Mans Series, that's a pretty hefty statement but one to which Biela can speak. And how can you argue against him and the fact that the Audi R8 has won 47 times in the Series since 2000?
"It's always good to have a new toy," said Biela, the 2005 LMP1 drivers' co-champion. "We're happy to be in the car to sort things out. We have to make sure it feels good and runs well. There are a lot of things to do to get ready for Sebring and for Le Mans. That's why we're here."
Part of the program includes the American Le Mans Series Winter Test, which started Monday at Sebring International Raceway. Two R10s from Audi Sport North America that will enter the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring took their first laps around the storied 3.7-mile, 17-turn circuit. Biela was in the No. 1 car, Rinaldo Capello in the No. 2 R10.
The early reviews were stellar.
"What impressed me is that everything worked that should work," Biela said. "When I got in the (R8) in 1998 for the first time, everything worked. We know how difficult it is to build a race car. And it was very impressive to me (with the R10)."
The aspect of the R10 that has gotten the most attention, of course, is its V12 diesel engine. It is a revolutionary venture in endurance racing, the most extreme test of motorsport in the world. The diesel is extremely quiet, letting out a smooth hum as it raced around the track. That's what happens when you turn between 3,000 and 5,000 rpm. The R8, incidentally, normally would turn about 7,000 rpm.
"The engine behaves in a different way, kind of like a DTM car," said Capello, a winner at Le Mans in 2003. "On the out lap, it was so quiet that you don't hear it. That was very weird. When you have a loud engine, the sound can give you a feeling. It is quite strange."
"We do have more power with the TDI engine," Biela added. "That makes the drivability even better. You (get) the power quite easily, and that makes it more enjoyable. It's easier if you have a little more torque. You don't have to shift down as much. Here, it is maybe two or three shifts less than in the R8."
Both drivers admitted the team isn't after quick times this week. It's more concerned with seeing what works at Sebring and mapping out all the scenarios that come with a 12- or 24-hour event.
"We are going for the 24 Hours of Le Mans," Biela said. "Performance and reliability have to work together. That's why we're here."