Ingolstadt - The twelfth Le Mans triumph, the early win of the manufacturers title* in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), plus five victories and five best times in qualifying at the first six events: Audi presents itself in top form in the WEC. The seventh round of the season at Shanghai (China) on November 9 may even produce the decision in the drivers World Championship.
Three factors make the seventh round of the WEC a big challenge for Audi. At the premiere at Shanghai a year ago, Audi saw that the cornering radii of the modern Grand Prix circuit have a particularly disadvantageous effect on the R18 e-tron quattro. In six of the narrow turns, the hybrid race car is slower than 120 km/h. But only above this speed, the e-tron quattro hybrid system is allowed to use the recovered energy for acceleration again as prescribed by the regulations.
The second factor: The event was shortened to two days. Only 33 hours pass between the first practice session and the checkered flag. This challenges the engineers and the drivers to work with particularly high concentration on the set-up and preparation for the race.
A third factor adds further spice to the battle for the podium positions. As most recently at Fuji, challenger and last years winner Toyota, like Audi, is fielding two cars.
Therefore Audi and its many racing fans are thus in for a challenging home round. China has long become a second home to the brand with the four rings. The country is the largest single market and a strong growth engine for the company. In the first three quarters of the current year, sales in China increased by 20.6 percent to 358,213 automobiles.
Furthermore, the brand is celebrating an anniversary this year, as its success story in China started exactly 25 years ago on the signing of a licensing agreement between Audi and First Automotive Works (FAW). Today, a joint venture in Changchun manufactures Audi models and another plant will be launched in Foshan at the end of 2013.
The topic of hybrid technology that has been embodied in motorsport by the R18 e-tron quattro since 2012 is gaining momentum in China as well. In July, Audi and FAW announced the planned launch of a joint plug-in-hybrid project specifically for the Chinese market.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "Wed like to deliver a good sporting performance in Audis largest single market. Were going to leave no stone unturned to clinch our sixth WEC win of the season and our first success on the Shanghai circuit with the R18 e-tron quattro. Were facing a challenging race. At the same time, were in for the next World Championship decision. Loïc Duval, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish have the chance to succeed Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer as World Champions at the seventh round of the season. I think this will provide the crowd with a real treat."
Chris Reinke (Head of LMP): "Looking at the sales figures, Shanghai is our home race. This is another reason why its a very important race in which weve got to settle some unfinished business. We didnt win last year, so were particularly motivated now. The track characteristics pose a great challenge because, due to the regulations, we cant use our hybrid system in the narrow turns."
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): At Shanghai, a year ago, it wasnt so easy to perfectly set up our car. The track is know as very demanding. Toyota won the race last year; this year, we want to be in front. Were traveling to Shanghai with the data gathered last year and have got two improved race cars on the grid. This season, weve consistently been very competitive. Thats why there can only be one aim in China, too: victory.
Marcel Fässler (37/CH), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1 (Audi Sport Team Joest) - Is traveling to China with his team-mates as last years World Champions - "Shanghai is a very special track with good overtaking opportunities. I really like the track layout. The first long turn immediately requires great skill because we cant see the apex. Last year, the race wasnt so easy for us but Im convinced that this year we can be optimistic thanks to the very good preparation."
André Lotterer (31/D), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1 (Audi Sport Team Joest) - Together with Benoît Tréluyer set the fastest time in qualifying most recently in Japan - "Shanghai is a typical, modern Grand Prix track. To be honest, my heart doesnt really belong to such circuits with their very special turns. But thats neither here nor there were aiming to achieve the best for Audi. Last year, we werent able to make really good use of the tires. Im optimistic because this year weve clearly made some progress thatll again show in China."
Benoît Tréluyer (36/F), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1 (Audi Sport Team Joest) - -With his team-mates has won the WEC rounds at Spa and São Paulo plus the Sebring 12 Hours this year - "I think Shanghai will be the most difficult race of the year. Weve clearly seen that our engineers managed to make a big step with the car. But the track with its corners does not suit our car at all. Unfortunately, were not allowed to use our hybrid energy as freely as our competitor. Winning in China wont be easy."
Loïc Duval (31/F), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2 (Audi Sport Team Joest) - "After São Paulo and Austin, at Shanghai, gets to run on a third track previously unknown to him Ill get to know another new track and country. We realize how important China is as an automobile market for Audi. Naturally, wed like to be in contention for victory. Thats important for Audi and for us, the three drivers of car number 2."
Tom Kristensen (46/DK), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2 (Audi Sport Team Joest) - "Together with Allan McNish was the best Audi driver team at Shanghai last year - For us, the race in China is a nice task. Wed like to clinch the first WEC victory of the brand in the largest market. And we all know that the race will be about a possible early decision in the drivers World Championship after Audi has already won the title in the manufacturers classification."
Allan McNish (43/GB), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2 (Audi Sport Team Joest) - Together with his team-mates is leading the WEC standings - Qualified in the best R18 e-tron quattro for the front row at Shanghai a year ago - "In the battle with Toyota, weve been more competitive this year than in the past season, especially on the tracks with tighter turns like the one in Brazil. Shanghai has such characteristics as well. Im expecting a very close battle between the two manufacturers. Now, in the second year of the R18 e-tron quattro, weve got a very good feel for our car but the race wont be easy."