Interview with Dr. Ullrich: “It won’t be the first time that Audi does battle against Porsche.”

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Endurance-Info’s Laurent Mercier recently sat down with Audi’s head of motorsport at Sebring to discuss the brand’s swan song victory at the 12 Hours and what the future holds for battles against Toyota and incoming Porsche.

The love story between Audi and the 12 Hours of Sebring has lasted since 1999, with the German marque missing only one edition since that time. Ahead of another season in the FIA World Endurance Championship, Audi Sport Team Joest returned to the American continent to break in a pair of R18 e-tron quattros, and to say goodbye to the American Le Mans Series.

At a certain time, a decision will have to be made.

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich

Without much competition to speak of, success in this 61st edition of the classic race was unlikely to escape the Audi squad, but of course nothing is ever certain in endurance racing. With Tréluyer/Fässler/Jarvis on one side and Kristensen/McNish/di Grassi on the other, Audi was not in Florida to get some sun – they were there to win an 11th time. It was mission accomplished for the No. 1 car of Benoît Tréluyer, Marcel Fässler and Oliver Jarvis coming home ahead of the sister car. Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Sport, had everything to smile about, and to be proud of, as the team stayed a few days after the race to continue private tests on the old airfield circuit..

With the launch of the new American championship for 2014, in addition to the team’s forthcoming campaign in the FIA WEC with two cars, there are lots of questions to ask Dr. Ullrich. The man who oversees all of the marque’s sporting activites will once again have a busy year between endurance and the DTM.

Pit stop for #2 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro: Lucas di Grassi, Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish
Pit stop for #2 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro: Lucas di Grassi, Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Laurent Mercier / Endurance-info.com : Dr. Ullrich, With these 12 Hours of Sebring, the year starts off well for you and your team… Wolfgang Ullrich : “The team worked a lot during the winter months and it gives us motivation for what lay ahead. We kept in mind that the race wouldn’t be easy because you can never know what might happen. The final phase went perfectly. I’m thrilled by this 1-2 finish where our two cars fought hard against each other.”

Will we see Audi back at Sebring in 2014 ? "If we come back, it won’t be with an LMP1, because of the new rules. It’s hard to know what the future holds but discussions are being held about the possibilities. We’ll see what happens but ‘never say never.’ Sebring has a lot of character and there are many Audi fans out there. It’s a race that is demanding on the equipment and people. The circuit is good for development work. All is open for the future. At a certain time, a decision will have to be made. Our existing product can no longer compete there."

It can be said that between Audi and Sebring, it’s quite a love story... "We came here for the first time in 1999 with the very first Audi LMP, the R8R. We left with a podium. The following year, we presented the R8 on South Beach in Miami and later unveiled the diesel R10 to the American public. There was also frustration at times, notably in 2008 when we were beaten by Porsche and their RS Spyder. Looking back on it all, it was good for the show and the racing. This year, we are debuting an R18 e-tron quattro with more power, a camera on the roof and revised aerodynamics. And we just gave our hybrid technology its first success in America. It’s another step for Audi.”

Did Audi’s presence change its image in the United States ? "You just have to look at the number of Audi fans present at the track. Audi’s USA activities are numerous and this market is important for the brand. Everyone knows that Audi doesn’t hesitate to put new technologies onto the racetrack that we see in road cars later down the line."

Nissan will be at Le Mans in 2014 as the 56th Garage entry with a “full” electric technology. Audi presented an A3 g-tron at the recent Geneva Auto Show, a natural gas car. Would it be possible to see Audi in 2015 as a 56th entry with a natural gas machine? “To be honest, I don’t think so. This would demand a lot of development and we are already busy for 2014. Everyone at Audi is working hard right now, and Porsche is doing the same."

So we will see Audi versus Porsche in 2014? “We wouldn’t start something to quit in the middle of it. There is a program for 2014 and 2015. It won’t be the first time that Audi does battle against Porsche."

Before that, you will have to fight against Toyota to keep your FIA WEC championship. Will this season be more complicated? "Toyota will be in its second year, and will have two cars competing, compared to the lone car from last year. We will be equally matched with two cars as well. Needless to say, this will change things. We will know more next month after the championship’s first race at Silverstone.”

Translation by Rainier Ehrhardt Source: Laurent Mercier / Endurance-Info.com

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About this article
Series ALMS , WEC
Article type Interview
Tags 56th, alms, audi, endurance-info, featured, lemans, nissan, porsche, sebring, toyota, ullrich, wec

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