· Tom Kristensen just 269 thousandths short of pole position at Zhuhai
· Concentration on race set-up for the two Audi R18 TDI cars
· Pole position for the Audi R8 LMS in the GTC class
Ingolstadt/Zhuhai, – The two Audi R18 TDI cars will tackle the finale of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) at Zhuhai (China) from the second row of the grid. Audi Sport Team Joest completely concentrated on the race set-up in qualifying.
Last year had already shown that the 4.317-kilometer race track at Zhuhai with its nine right- and five left-hand turns is particularly hard on the brakes and tires. Therefore, Audi systematically used the wet test day on Wednesday and the free practice sessions on Friday and Saturday to intensively work for the six-hour race – and with a positive interim result: both Audi R18 TDI cars left an extremely strong impression during long runs in practice.
In qualifying on Saturday Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Marcel Fässler (Switzerland) took grid positions three and four for Audi in 27 degrees in the shade. The Le Mans record winner was merely 269 thousandths of a second short of the pole position.
Pole position for the Audi R8 LMS in the GTC class
The Audi R8 LMS delivered an impressive qualifying performance. DTM racer Edoardo Mortara, who moved the Audi GT3 sports car for the first time ever on Wednesday, not only secured the pole position in the GTC class for Audi. He also set the second-fastest lap of all GT vehicles and claimed grid position 14 overall in the R8 fielded by the Chinese customer team Absolute Racing under an entry submitted by Audi Sport customer racing China. Another Audi R8 LMS, driven by Carlo van Dam (Hitotsuyama Racing), qualified as the runner-up in the GTC class.
The 6-hour race at Zuhai will be started on Sunday at 11:00 hrs. local time (4:00 hrs CET). Audi.tv provides a full-length live broadcast of the ILMC finale on the internet at http://microsites.audi.com/lemans/. Tom Kristensen is competing together with Allan McNish and Marcel Fässler with Timo Bernhard.
Quotes after qualifying
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “We continually improved up to qualifying. The first four cars are close together. Zhuhai is very special because it’s a kind of stop-and-go track and there’s actually just one fast corner where aerodynamics is crucial. I believe that we’ve got both cars on a good race set-up. Tomorrow we’ll try and close the season with a very good result.”
Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 TDI #2): “Here, it’s about having a good front axle in order to optimally get through the tight turns – that’s what we’ve been working on from the outset. Naturally, you’ve got to find the perfect compromise with sufficient traction on the rear wheels. To achieve this for one lap is one thing but an altogether different matter for long runs. I think we’ve set up a very good race car and will see a very exciting race tomorrow. There’s one thing I can promise: All four Audi drivers are hungry for victory at the finale of the ILMC.”
Allan McNish (Audi R18 TDI #2): “I’ve got to say that I’m impressed by the performance that Tom (Kristensen) delivered today. He simply squeezed the best out of the Audi R18 TDI today. We’re very close to the competition and that should give us another extra boost of self-confidence for the race. We were already competitive here last year with the R15 TDI and we are competitive with the R18 TDI as well – no matter whether we’re on a wet or a dry track. We’ve got a good car for the race.”
Timo Bernhard (Audi R18 TDI #1): “The ILMC race at Zhuhai is my first visit to China. It’s an interesting culture and a completely new race track for me, which isn’t exactly easy. It’s a technically demanding track with my many hairpins. We did a good job for the race and were running well on the long runs. That makes me feel optimistic for the race tomorrow. I think we’ll definitely be in contention for victory.”
Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 TDI #1): “As always, we set up the car as best we could for the race. Although it tends to understeer – which personally doesn’t suit me so well – I pushed in qualifying. Obviously, we’d have liked being a bit faster, but more wasn’t possible today on fresh tires. Still, I’m looking forward to the race because that’s always an altogether different story.”
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “To be honest, I was expecting us to have a difficult time in qualifying. That’s why I’m surprised how close we are to our immediate rivals. Unfortunately, Marcel Fässler lost some time on his last fast lap. Otherwise it would have been similarly good as Tom Kristensen’s. In practice we were doing fine with the tires on the long runs and I’m hoping for that to be the case in the race as well. That’s why I think that we’ll be on an equal footing in the race and that it’ll develop the way it has been throughout the year: none of the brands has a true advantage. We can live well with our start from the second row.”