Both Abt-Audi TT-R finish in top positions
The 2004 edition of the 24 Hour race at the Nurburgring-Nordschleife will be entering the annals of motorsport history as one of the most spectacular ones held so far. For nearly 24 hours, the 220 teams had to cope with constantly changing - and usually adverse - weather conditions on the world's most demanding race track. The key to victory was the right selection of the tyres best suited to the particular situation at any given time. The teams' tyre choices were critical to their ability to stand their ground, considering the fact that track conditions were frequently changing between torrential rains and sunshine within a single lap.
Both Abt-Audi TT-Rs, finishing in fourth (number 8, with drivers Christian Abt, Patrick Huisman, Frank Stippler, Karl Wendlinger) and eighth (number 7, drivers Christian Abt, Fredrik Ekblom, Mattias Ekstrom, Patrick Huisman) place respectively, clinched a respectable result under these conditions. The two Abt-Audi TT-R kept up with the high speed of the front runners as well as rendering impressive proof of their technical reliability. Throughout the 24 hours, not a single unscheduled repair was performed. Merely two minor "slips" and subsequent contact with the guard rail by Fredrik Ekblom and Christian Abt required small body repairs, and some additional time was lost due to a few unlucky choices made in the tough question of which tyres to fit.
A respectable result, as well, was achieved by the three Audi A3's - fielded by the Pirelli team - in their debut race. The A3s were fitted with an advanced 2.0T FSI engine and the innovative DSG gearbox. The best-placed A3 finished the race with an excellent 33rd place.
Quotes after the race
Patrick Huisman (Abt-Audi TT-R #8): "My thanks to the guys on the team for their fantastic support. Our TT-Rs had been prepared in an excellent manner, and during the race, as well, the mechanics gave one hundred per cent in the pouring rain. I'd like to see ourselves trying again next year. Perhaps with the Audi A4 - then I could stretch my legs from time to time."
Frank Stippler (Abt-Audi TT-R #8): "The reason why we didn't make it to the podium can be traced back to the very early stages of the race. In the hot phase with all those weather changes, others simply made some luckier choices. Still: it was an exciting weekend, and I'm happy to be part of the Audi team."
Karl Wendlinger (Abt-Audi TT-R #8): "Especially at night, conditions were definitely extreme. Considering this strong field, the thankless fourth place isn't all that bad, really. We simply made a few more unlucky tyre choices than others. And the few minutes we lost with additional pit stops are now lacking in the time we'd have needed to clock to achieve our goal of a podium position."
Christian Abt (Abt-Audi TT-R #7): "This weekend, the Nordschleife yet again fully lived up to its ominous reputation, confronting us with incredible conditions. Towards the end, we pushed hard again and went all out on dry asphalt - but it was simply too late."
Fredrik Ekblom (Abt-Audi TT-R #7): "It's really hard to believe: every time I went out on the track with slicks, I'd have needed rain tyres after only half a lap - that's exactly the type of thing you dread as a racer. But, the Nordschleife isn't only a great race track - it's also one that sometimes bites back."
Mattias Ekstrom (Abt-Audi TT-R #7): "I'm happy with the performance of our team and the perfect technology of the car - though not at all with our result. We had to learn that, here, even the smallest mistake is punished severely. I hope that we'll return next year to show everyone our true capabilities."
Hans-Jurgen Abt (Head of Infineon Team Abt Sportsline): "I'm proud of my team and our Abt-Audi TT-R. To get both cars across the finish line without any technical difficulties whatsoever and at constantly high speeds under such conditions, which I'd never experienced in a 24Hour race before, is like a small victory in and of itself. We've fulfilled our part of the task this weekend. The other part - this treacherous Eifel weather - is something we cannot, unfortunately, influence yet ."
1 Muller/Muller/Stuck/Lamy (BMW) 143 laps
2 Lamy/Said/Huisman/Stuck (BMW) - 1 lap
3 Luhr/Klasen/Bernhard/Manthey (Porsche) - 2 laps
4 Abt/Huisman/Stippler/Wendlinger (Abt-Audi TT-R) - 3 laps
5 Asch/Schoysman/Kinoshita/Tanaka (Nissan) - 8 laps
6 Jager/Schmickler/Price (Porsche) - 10 laps
7 Otto/Weiss/Erkes/Zinnow (Porsche) - 12 laps
8 Abt/Ekblom/Ekstrom/Huisman (Abt-Audi TT-R) - 12 laps
9 Wolfsgruber/Kiesch/Tischner/Tischner (BMW) - 14 laps
10 Reuter/Scheider/Strycek/Tiemann (Opel) - 14 laps