Audi comes as championship leader to home race
Ingolstadt -- Another huge event is on the Audi Sport race schedule only 14 days after the Audi R10 TDI prototype's magnificent victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans: The Norisring race in Nuremburg, the Audi team's "home race".
Thousands of Audi fans and employees from Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm flood year for year to the exceedingly popular DTM race. Last season a total of 141,000 spectators followed the only street race on the DTM calendar. They last celebrated an Audi victory in 2002 when Frenchman Laurent Aiello overtook Mercedes driver Bernd Schneider on the last lap in a heart stopping manoeuvre on his way to winning the championship.
The best Norisring result posted by the Audi A4 DTM since then comes from the 2005 season. Then, Christian Abt and Mattias Ekstrom took second and third places respectively. However, this should change on the last weekend in June: The first Audi A4 DTM victory in Nuremberg is the goal targeted by the Audi squad.
The foundations for this were already created last year: During development of the new A4 DTM, which bears the project name "R14" internally, the unique demands of the mere 2.3-kilometre street circuit in Nuremberg, specifically a low Cd value, good traction and stable brakes, were taken into account. In addition, suspension and aerodynamics must master the bumps which change from year to year and which traditionally make life for the drivers difficult.
To prepare perfectly for the race in the Franconian metropolis the circuit was simulated on an airfield. Two current A4 and a year old car were in action for this purpose. The test results confirmed the Audi wind tunnel values and the computer simulation.
Nevertheless, the team under Head of Audi Motorsport does face an difficult task: Opponent Mercedes is traditionally very strong at the Norisring. As a rule, qualifying boils down to hundredths and thousandths of seconds. Barely a single Norisring race finishes without spectacular incidents and Safety Car periods.
It will be particularly difficult for the year-old Audis, which must weigh-in with five kilograms more than the 2008 cars from Audi and Mercedes following the excellent results in the previous races.
In spite of the final of the European Football Championship being played on the same weekend, the organisers expect a full-house again next to the Dutzendteich this year. Practice in Nuremberg starts on Friday. Qualifying starts on Saturday at 1:28 p.m. local time, the race on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. local time. ARD broadcasts qualifying and the race live on "Das Erste". Free practice is broadcast on www.dtm.tv on the internet. Highlights and background stories can be seen on www.audi.tv.
Quotes before the race at the Norisring
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "The Norisring race is obviously very important to us. Audi employees and fans come in hordes and it goes without saying that we want to give them something to cheer about. Over the last few years we've seen that the circuit doesn't quite suit the concept of our car since downforce is not an absolute priority at the Norisring. However, we are in a good position in the championship and have done everything to prepare ourselves as good as possible for the Norisring."
Mattias Ekstrom (Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #1): "It's always been my dream to win the race at the Norisring. It is my eighth year at Audi and my eighth attempt. I'll do everything to run at the front and to finally win this race."
Martin Tomczyk (Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #2): "The Norisring is not only my home race but also that of Audi. In spite of this I go there in two minds. The track is fantastic, especially the surroundings. However, over the last few years I never really got to grips with it. But things can and do change. Whatever happens I want to be right at the front in my home race."
Tom Kristensen (Audi A4 DTM #9): "I'm looking forward to the Norisring. This year Audi Sport has built a car with which we are better on exactly those circuits where we were traditionally weak. The Norisring was certainly a weak point up to now. I think that it'll be very close between Audi and Mercedes this year. This boosts our motivation. This race is the DTM race which everybody wants to win -- it's Germany's Monaco."
Timo Scheider (GW:plus/Top Service Audi A4 DTM #10): "It's great that we can take out another ten kilograms handicap ballast after the race on the EuroSpeedway and we are now equal with the 2008 Mercedes. This means that the we all start from scratch again. Nuremburg has traditionally been a tough nut to crack for us. However, we've worked hard to do a good job there and to give the employees and guests of Audi a good show."
Alexandre Premat (Audi Bank/Shell Helix Audi A4 DTM #14): "I'm really looking forward to the Norisring. I've won there twice in Formula 3. I'm a great fan of street races and am always very fast around the houses. Last year I fought my way from 15th on the grid to score points in eighth position. I want to score points again this year even though we have heaviest car on the grid."
Oliver Jarvis (Best Buddies Audi A4 DTM #15): "This'll be my first Norisring race. I can hardly wait to get there and see the scores of fans. To learn the circuit I've watched some DVDs and played computer games. I'm ready."
Mike Rockenfeller (S line Audi A4 DTM #18): "It really will be an uphill struggle for us since we'll have the heaviest car in the entire field. Nevertheless, I really can't wait. The Norisring has a unique atmosphere and is always something special -- the only street race that we have. The grandstands are always absolutely packed there."
Markus Winkelhock (Playboy Audi A4 DTM #19): "After Hockenheim the Norisring is as good as a second home race for me. Since I live in Stuttgart, Nuremburg isn't that far away. I've always been quick around the Norisring and I love the track. It can only get better after the way things went at the EuroSpeedway."
Katherine Legge (Audi A4 DTM #20): "I have some experience with street races from my Champ Car days. Everybody says that the atmosphere at the Norisring is fantastic which is why I so looking forward to the race after the five-week DTM break."
Christijan Albers (Audi A4 DTM #21): "The Norisring is always a very special event with its great atmosphere. I hope that we'll be good there. I think we should be closer to the new cars with the 2006 cars. We'll see what's possible."
Hans-Jurgen Abt (Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): "As Bavarian team we always look forward to the Norisring. It is not only the highlight for Audi but also for our team. I think we are better prepared for the Norisring than ever before. We run with the same weight as Mercedes. I'm expecting a very exciting race. After 2002, it's about time we won again for Audi."
Ernst Moser (Team Director Audi Sport Team Phoenix): "The Norisring is the highlight of the entire year. As far as the circuit characteristics are concerned the high weight that our 2007 cars must carry will certainly not help us. However, our two drivers have no problems with low downforce. I'm looking forward to the fantastic atmosphere and expect a tough race."
Arno Zensen (Team Director Audi Sport Team Rosberg): "I'm only actually looking forward to the Dutzendteich. When I just think about the weight of our cars I feel bad-- As always we'll try to make the best with what we have."