Audi drivers on qualifying and 24 Hour race

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Audi drivers on qualifying and 24 Hour race

Audi hosted their press conference in the impressive ACO Headquarters building which is opposite the pit lane and overlooks the pit straight. All nine drivers were present along with their team principals to talk to the media and answer ...

Audi hosted their press conference in the impressive ACO Headquarters building which is opposite the pit lane and overlooks the pit straight. All nine drivers were present along with their team principals to talk to the media and answer questions.

#6 Champion Racing Audi R8: J.J. Lehto, Emanuele Pirro, Stefan Johansson.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
The Champion Racing trio of Stefan Johansson, Emanuele Pirro and JJ Lehto were the first to take to the stage and they talked about the differences between Le Mans up to twenty years ago and the circuit as it is in the present day.

"Lots of things about the track have changed quite a lot" said Johansson. "There are two chicanes now - back then it was faster and more dangerous. It still is very challenging and probably the most challenging circuit in the world. Le Mans is a phenomenal race, very tough and a test for all the people involved."

JJ Lehto, who is about to drive his second race in the R8, talked about his preparations for the 24 Hours. "It was not that difficult. I've driven many good cars and this is one of the best. I have been testing with Team Champion and they are a professional team. The car was easy to jump in and very good to drive."

Emanuele Pirro was asked if he was concerned about the fact he may win four races in a row. "There is this possibility but I don't want to think about it. There is a new feeling this year as I am not in the favourite car with the bookmakers. It is an easy car to drive and we have everything we need to do well. We are there. If the Bentleys make the slightest mistake we are there. We have to do the best possible job with the car we have. We are not looking for the win. We are looking for a good position, and with a bit of luck this position may be victory."

Team Goh's three drivers took to the stage and Jan Magnussen, Seiji Ara and Marco Werner faced the world's media. "It would have been better to be further up the grid", said team principle Kazumichi Goh, "but fifth is okay because it is a long race. My wish is to win here, but my goal is to get on the podium."

#5 Audi Sport Japan Team Goh Audi R8: Jan Magnussen, Marco Werner, Seiji Ara.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Magnussen spoke about yesterday's qualifying session. "As with everyone here it's always a matter of getting a clear lap -- we didn't get much luck there" said the former Formula One driver. "The car was great and the time was there for sure."

Ara talked about the fitness level required for the race. "Last year Audi had a very good car and it was a great experience driving here. If felt a bit different as it felt like 24 sprint races one hour after another. Endurance and physical fitness is very important."

Werner described the experience of driving the Audi R8. "It is a big change -- it was incredible in the first few days to see how different a sports car is. You mustn't make the slightest mistake in a car like that." He went on to talk about the performance difference between the Audis and Bentley. "We were not that far apart. When they are in racing trim they won't be that much faster. I think it's going to be very close at the end."

The Audi Sport UK team, who qualified in third place to lead the Audi attack, were the final team to talk to the press. The drivers Mika Salo, Frank Biela and Perry McCarthy laughed and joked as they answered a series of questions.

Salo talked about the difference between driving in sports cars and driving in Formula One. "Driving wise it is not a big change but schedule wise it is a huge change. It is a lot more relaxed as Formula One is much more stressful. The car feels slow for me in the daylight so in the dark you get a greater sensation. I like driving in the dark.

#10 Audi Sport UK Audi R8: Perry McCarthy, Mika Salo and Frank Biela.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"Unlike Mika, it [the R8] is faster than the F1 car I had, and I get to start races in it!" joked McCarthy. "The actual track time when you have when you have things to do with the car comes down. In the end sometimes you don't get many laps. I spent a lot of time in the car last night."

"I've felt happier and happier in the car" said Biela. "This is the maximum we were able to achieve in qualifying." He went on to talk about the pressure of being a former winner and how it compares to being a novice. "You do feel more confident. The pressure I had the first time has gone away now. The job is just as tough, you have to concentrate."

The conference concluded with a word from Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Sport. "I am very happy that we have these three teams. We have known all three teams for a long time. We all know each other's strengths. I can see any of those teams at the top."

The Audi teams line up third (Audi Sport UK), fifth (Team Goh) and sixth (Champion Racing) on the grid for Le Mans 24 Hours race which will begin at 4pm local time (+2 hours GMT) on Saturday.

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Series LEMANS