Audi Sport Team Joest has earned seven 24 Hours of Le Mans wins and over the past few year, the team has been a major player with Audi AG in the developing of the Audi R10 TDI. The diesel-powered LM P1 Audi won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and landed the American Le Mans Seres championship in its maiden year, like it predecessor the Audi R8.
This year, the German team led by Reinhold Joest will field two Audi R10 TDIs in the Le Mans Series which is under the umbrealla of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), the official organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. All four of the team's drivers have outstanding sportscar records, starting with the reigning ALMS champions' Allan McNish and Rinaldo "Dindo" Capello.
The Scot and the Italian make for an exciting duo -- on and off the track -- which will give them the momentum to carry their back-to-back ALMS titles into th six-round, European-based championship.
McNish and Capello will leave the ALMS after setting competition records. After the season finale in 2007, McNish landed 34 podiums, 24 being race wins in his 42 ALMS starts. The Scottish racer has 12 poles to his credit. His Italian co-driver has amassed 31 victories out of his 53 starts. Capello has 45 podium finishes and 12 poles; he is second on the all-time career wins list.
Mike Rockenfeller and Alexandre Premat, two of Audi's young guns, will co-drive the second car. The duo will race in the LMS alongside their DTM program. Rockenfeller competed in two races with the R10 TDI last year, paired with Premat at Le Mans, and also filling in for Emanuele Pirro at the ALMS season-ending race at Laguna Seca. Premat just had one start in the diesel-powered entry but both drivers have plenty of laps from testing in 2007.
"Previously the European fans have only been able to see the R10 TDI in action at the 24 Hours of Le Mans," explains Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. "We are absolutely delighted that we have been able to create a base together with the ACO over the last few months which will see our diesel sportscars on the grids in the classical European 1000-kilometre races. The Le Mans Series already boasted an extremely attractive field last year. The Audi factory involvement surely will further increase the value of the championship."
Audi is clear with its intentions -- to not only enter the entire six-round LMS season -- but also to take the fight to rivals Peugeot. The two faced off for the first time this year at Sebring on Monday, during the ALMS Winter Test. The French diesels are expected to announce their sportscar program on Febuary 15.
"With Audi Sport Team Joest and our mix of seasoned campaigners and young drivers we should be well prepared for the tough task awaiting us in the Le Mans Series," said Dr Ullrich. "Our target is clear: We want to take the title to Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm and show who designs and builds the best sportscar and the best diesel engines."
The LMS season begins at Barcelona before heading to Monza and Spa-Francorchamps prior to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After the twice-around-the-clock French classic, it will be off to the Nurburgring, followed by Silverstone. The series has yet to confirm the sixth and final race of the season.
While committing to the full LMS season, the German brand has yet to reveal if they will run a full-season in the ALMS in defense of their championships. However, a host of Audi works drivers are testing the R10 TDI at Sebring in the ALMS Winter Test preparing for teh Twelve Hours of Sebring, including Capello, McNish, Rockenfeller and seven-time Le Mans champion Tom Kristensen.