Audi will be represented on the 2009 Le Mans Series grid after all, following an arrangement with former Formula One managing director Colin Kolles to purchase two Audi R10 TDIs for the European-based championship. Kolles, whose TME Racing team ...
Audi will be represented on the 2009 Le Mans Series grid after all, following an arrangement with former Formula One managing director Colin Kolles to purchase two Audi R10 TDIs for the European-based championship. Kolles, whose TME Racing team fields Audi A4s in DTM, will expand his operation this season to include an attack the five-round sportscar series, plus a planned two-car entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The German automaker pulled the plug on its factory full-season sportscar programs in the American Le Mans Series and Le Mans Series last November, and has since concentrated on developing its next generation diesel prototype, the R15 TDI. The new LM P1 contender only has two races on its plate: the Twelve Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans, both of which will be run by the factory Team Joest squad.
Now with the addition of a European customer program, the R10 TDI will live on, at least for one more season. The revolutionary machine became the first diesel-powered car to win at Le Mans. In all, the R10 TDI has racked up 22 overall victories worldwide and has also remained undefeated at Circuit de La Sarthe.
"We welcome the fact that Dr Kolles decided to take on this commitment and wants to purchase two Audi R10 TDI cars," said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. "While on the factory side of the house we are concentrating on the development and fielding of the new R15 TDI sportscar as well as on the DTM, we are pleased to see that the R10 TDI will be privately entered in future and that racing vehicles of the Audi brand will continue to be represented in the Le Mans Series. That is why we agreed to the sale of the cars. However, our involvement will be strictly limited to providing support under the terms of the service agreement."
While Kolles may be making his first entry into sportscar racing, he is no stranger to he world of motorsports. The German native began his career in rallying before co-founding his own F3 team in 2000. Kolles, a qualified dentist, quickly rose to the top and made his mark in Formula One, becoming the managing director of the Midland F1 team, which later became Force India.
Following his departure from F1, Kolles established his own DTM team in 2006, fielding two Audi A4s. Last season, Christijan Albers and Katherine Legge were at the wheel of TME Racing's two 2006-specification A4s.
Exact details of Kolles new program have not been announced, but Audi has pledged to provide a support package, much like it did in the past when customer teams campaigned the Audi R8. Whether this leads to factory drivers being loaned to Kolles, among other things, is unclear at this point.