Le Mans victory spurs Audi on
Ingolstadt, - Spurred on by its record victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Audi tackles the next major motorsport event: from July 2 to 4, the DTM will visit the Norisring in Nuremberg.
Located just 75 kilometers north of Ingolstadt, the Norisring has traditionally been a home round for Audi - so far, though, without a home advantage: the merely 2.3-kilometer city street circuit between the Frankenstadion sports arena and the Dutzendteich lake is - except for the new circuit in Shanghai - the only race track on the DTM calendar on which Audi has not clinched a victory with the A4 DTM. The "credit side" of Audi's track record reflects a total of four third places and a second place achieved by Christian Abt in the 2005 season.
Last year the squad around Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, who led the brand with the four rings to its ninth triumph at Le Mans just a few days ago, came closer to clinching the much-longed-for home victory at the Norisring than in any of the years before: only on the penultimate lap Timo Scheider, who had started from the pole position, lost the lead to Mercedes driver Jamie Green.
Knowing full well that the Audi Sport Abt Sportsline team was fighting on a par with its rivals at the Norisring in 2009 and that the 2009-specification Audi A4 DTM, which is internally designated as the "R14 plus," underwent some detailed optimizations prior to the technology freeze, the Audi squad is by no means looking toward Nuremberg with apprehension. "We know that we can do it if everything works perfectly," says Dr. Ullrich. "Le Mans has shown what is possible with a perfect team performance - and it has given everyone at Audi Sport special motivation to finally do it again at the Norisring too."
Norisring simulations on an airfield
To be optimally prepared, Audi Sport again simulated the Norisring this year on the airfield in Cochstedt, East Germany. The final preparations for the successful race at Le Mans took place at the same facility where Mattias Ekstrom, Oliver Jarvis, Miugel Molina, Timo Scheider and Martin Tomczyk - by driving between traffic cones - gathered important findings for the special characteristics of the Norisring where traction, deceleration and top speed count most. The aerodynamic efficiency, which is a particular forte of the Audi A4 DTM, shall be mainly used for a good top speed.
An advantage for the 2008-specification vehicles?
The vehicles of the penultimate generation, which are allowed to compete with 25 kilograms less weight than the current models, are expected to have extremely good chances at the Norisring as well. "At the Norisring I would voluntarily swap my 2009-spec car for a 2008-spec A4," stresses Mattias Ekstrom. "Weight plays a really crucial part at the Norisring."
That is why the drivers of the 2008-specification vehicles are looking forward to the street circuit with particularly eager anticipation - especially Mike Rockenfeller from Audi Sport Team Phoenix, who was the best Audi driver in two of the first three DTM races of the year and who fulfilled a personal dream when he clinched his first victory in a race of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Consequently, he will travel to the Norisring spurred on by this exploit. "After my first sports car victory with Audi I wouldn't mind celebrating my first DTM win at the Norisring," says "Rocky." "In 2009 Jamie Green showed that it's possible to win there with a year-old car. And the prerequisites are even better for us this year."
Excursion into NASCAR series and to Le Mans
Mike Rockenfeller isn't the only one to have stocked up on self-confidence with his Le Mans victory between the DTM races at the EuroSpeedway and the Norisring. Title defender Timo Scheider immediately clinched a podium position in the GT2 class on his Le Mans debut. Oliver Jarvis was recognized as "Rookie of the year" at Le Mans and Mattias Ekstrom caused a sensation at his excursion into the North American NASCAR series. "A fantastic experience," enthused the Swede. "But now it's time to fully concentrate on the DTM again and the Norisring. We just barely missed clinching victory last year. We'll do everything within our means to make it happen this time."
Demo laps of the Audi R15 TDI
DTM fans are not the only ones who can look forward to the Norisring weekend because sports car enthusiasts will be in for a treat as well: prior to the start of the DTM race on Sunday, the Le Mans winning diesel race sports car, the Audi R15 TDI, will do some demo laps on the Norisring. Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas will be in Nuremberg as well to sign autographs for fans and to keep their fingers crossed for Mike Rockenfeller.
Topics of the weekend
- Which of the cars are more powerful: the 2008-spec or the 2009-spec
- Will Audi be able to put an end to Mercedes' seven-year winning streak? How will the new Dunlop tires perform on the street circuit?
- Will Katherine Legge be able to repeat her strong performance from last year?
- How will rookie Miguel Molina handle the Norisring?
Quotes by the officials
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "The Norisring is always a particularly important race for Audi because many of Audi's employees travel to the race track to keep their fingers crossed and, obviously, would like to witness an Audi exploit. That's why we're particularly motivated to clinch a good result at the Norisring. We've always had a bit of a hard time there but every year we've come a step closer to achieving our goal of being capable of winning at the Norisring."
Hans-Jurgen Abt (Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): "We last clinched victory at the Norisring in 2002, with Laurent Aiello. It's time for us to break our duck and to strike back at the Norisring. This would be important for the championship too because we've already lost many points for various reasons."
Ernst Moser (Team Director Audi Sport Team Phoenix): "The spectators experience the DTM at the Norisring from a particularly close distance. Technically, this track demands completely different things than a normal circuit, traction in particular. Thanks to the weight advantage of 25 kilograms over the current cars we expect to have good chances of repeating - or even topping - our EuroSpeedway result."
Arno Zensen (Team Director Audi Sport Team Rosberg): "We have a love-hate relationship with the Norisring: the atmosphere is fantastic but it's not easy for the teams to work there due to the things that happened. Markus (Winkelhock) last drove a good race at the EuroSpeedway and will travel to the Norisring with a clear head. Katherine (Legge) delivered the fastest race lap there last year and clinched fifth place in qualifying. It would be great if we could repeat that."
Facts and quotes by the Audi drivers
Mattias Ekstrom (31/S), Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #5 (Audi Sport Team Abt
- Clinched his first DTM pole position in Nuremberg in 2002
- Has been on the podium at the Norisring in third place for as many as four times "It's nice to arrive at the Norisring - for me it's the DTM circuit with the most enjoyable atmosphere. Last year we just very barely missed victory there. We'll try for it again this year."
Oliver Jarvis (26/GB), Tabac Original Audi A4 DTM #2 (Audi Sport Team
- "Rookie of the year" at the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours
- Has not clinched any points yet in the 2010 season "The Norisring was a Mercedes track in the past. We need to change that this year. We've got to try and win there in order to grab points from the Mercedes guys at the top after their strong start to the season. We'll give everything."
Katherine Legge (29/GB), Glamour Audi A4 DTM #15 (Audi Sport Team
- Posted the fastest race lap last year
- Started from position five, but made a jump start "I'm looking forward to the Norisring. It's Audi's home track, a cool city race with a great atmosphere. We were very fast there last year. I'm hoping we'll be able to repeat that. The thing I like best at the Norisring is the late braking."
Miguel Molina (21/E), Audi Bank A4 DTM #18 (Audi Sport Rookie Team Abt)
- Drives a DTM vehicle on a city street circuit for the first time
- Is the only one of the three DTM rookies to have clinched points so far "I'm expecting a difficult race because I don't have that much experience with city street races. I've only driven in Monaco so far. Still, I'm really looking forward to it and will prepare myself as best I can."
Alexandre Premat (28/F), TV Movie Audi A4 DTM #9 (Audi Sport Team
- Clinched one point in 2007 in his first DTM race at the Norisring
- Plans to marry his partner of many years after the Norisring race "I love this track. I've won races there in Formula 3 against Hamilton, Rosberg and Kubica. In the DTM I've just been lacking a bit of fortune at the Norisring so far. I'd like to change that and score many points."
Mike Rockenfeller (26/D), S line Audi A4 DTM #10 (Audi Sport Team
- Was best Audi driver in two out of three DTM races this year
- Has not scored any points yet at the Norisring "In the past we often had difficulties there because we usually arrived with a little more weight at the Norisring. Thanks to the regulations that's changed now. I think we've got good chances."
Timo Scheider (31/D), GW:plus/Top Service Audi A4 DTM #1 (Audi Sport Team
- Just barely missed victory last year
- Was on the podium in 2008 "We've had some unfinished business with Audi at the Norisring for years
- and that goes for me in particular after I was leading the race for 80 laps last year. I want to travel to the track one hundred percent prepared and finish the last three or four laps as the race leader as well so that Audi will finally win its home race in Nuremberg."
Martin Tomczyk (28/D), Red Bull Cola Audi A4 DTM #6 (Audi Sport Team Abt
- Had a serious accident at the Norisring in 2002
- Clinched his first points this year at the EuroSpeedway "The Norisring is one of the most popular tracks of the spectators. It's nice to drive there because so many Audi fans are at the race. As everyone knows, I don't like the circuit all that much, but will still try to squeeze the best out of it."
Markus Winkelhock (30/D), Playboy/GW:plus Audi A4 DTM #14 (Audi Sport
- Is the nephew of Joachim Winkelhock, who won the first race of the new DTM at the Norisring in 2000
- Celebrated his 30th birthday on the Le Mans weekend
- Was forced to skip qualifying in 2009 after an accident in practice (manhole cover) and had to start all the way from the rear "The Norisring is practically my second home race with a very special atmosphere. I like the circuit and the track should suit the car well too. The break after the EuroSpeedway was much too long. I can hardly wait to be driving at the Norisring."