Audi's Dieter Gass says that the all-new R18 for the 2016 World Endurance Championship has been developed separately from the 919 Hybrid of sister manufacturer Porsche.
Speaking exclusively to Motorsport.com on the opening morning of WEC Prologue pre-season group testing at Paul Ricard, Gass (who is Head of DTM at Audi Sport and deputising for Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich who is on Easter Holidays) also said that initial reliability issues with the new machine have been ironed out and it is now “in a good way”.
Speaking of the relationship with Porsche, Gass said: “It’s strictly separate for the time being.
“It’s opposition, and obviously we’re trying to beat Porsche as much as we’re trying to beat Toyota.”
When asked if that approach could change in the future, he replied: “Never say never. I think you wouldn’t have expected such close cooperation between two manufacturers in the road-car segment.
“But once you go to Le Mans, everybody wants to show what he’s capable of doing and beat the opposition rather than working together.”
When pressed if he believed Audi could beat the reigning World Champions and Le Mans 24 Hour winners, he said: “Hope so! That’s what we are targeting, obviously.
“We always want to have the performance to be able to win, not only Le Mans but also the WEC. Then if it all happens, only time will tell.
“The confidence that we have is that over the winter we’ve built a completely new car. We have made some predictions and so far we are very close to our simulations from what we’ve seen.
“But we don’t know what the opposition has done, so we have to wait until Silverstone for definitive data on that.”
New car problems
Gass admitted that the R18 had suffered issues during its initial development, as previously reported, but claimed the programme was back on track.
“We’re clinching up our mileage,” he said. “Initially we did have to sort out a few problems, for sure. I don’t think you can expect to build a completely new car and go into a 24-hour race straight away.
“But so far we’re in a good way.
“With the new technologies and new components you have to sort out the basic stuff and go through your learning curve. I wouldn’t say there was one particular issue that’s worth mentioning.”
Audi has joined the 6MJ energy-recovery subclass for 2016, abandoning its flywheel system used since 2012 for a lithium-ion battery. Although both Porsche and Toyota have this technology too, they will run in the 8MJ class in 2016.
Porsche and Toyota run petrol engines, while Audi uses a turbo-charged diesel motor.
“The development speed on the battery sector has just taken off so much in terms of performance,” said Gass. “I think we were happy in the beginning with the flywheel, but with the battery development in road cars, it’s picked up so much speed, that it’s become the most interesting concept.
“You look at what you have on the market, and your own development capabilities rather than looking at what the opposition is doing. You make your homework and your analysis, and then you take the best concept.”
Interview by Erwin Jaeggi