September 11, 2007
By: Chris Ostberg
The setting couldnt have been better: a beautiful island setting nestled right between the US and Canada, near picture perfect weather, and the typical unbeatable Audi TDI race team. After securing a LMP1 class victory at Mosport, there was really only one thing to do. Could Audi beat the smaller and lighter LMP2 Porsche cars to the overall win on this very tight circuit?
This would prove to be quite a challenge. Audis R10 race car was designed from the ground up with one goal in mind to dominate the 24 hours of Le Mans race. This goal contrasts heavily with the tight, bumpy, and relatively slow road course set up in Detroits Belle Isle park. Audi did a remarkable job tweaking the powerful R10 TDI to compete on this entirely new (to the ALMS series) racing circuit.
Audi drivers Marco Werner and Emanuelle Pirro explained to AudiWorld that Audis race strategy would not be any different than the longer 12 or 24 hour races despite the short race length and tight circuit at the Belle Isle venue. They have always driven the R10 all out. The TDI engines superior fuel consumption and exceptional reliability means the team go hard from start to finish.
Audis ALMS success is an excellent segue into offering diesel powered cars in the North American market. Despite this being the 2nd highly successful ALMS season for the revolutionary R10 TDI race cars, the grandstands were still abuzz with curiosity and intrigue. Conversations often started after the quiet, yet obviously quick R10s would hum by. The sound is very unique and unlike any other race car.
Did you know those Audis are diesel
No, really? And theyre fast?
Yeah, no kidding! They dont have to pit as much either, I guess they burn less fuel!
These types of comments were overheard in the stands all weekend as the Audi team gained interest and fans at this new event.
Sadly, hopes of an overall win at the event diminished after the qualifying session. The circuit proved itself to be much better suited to the smaller and more nimble LMP2 class cars, such as the Porsche RS Spyder and the Acura ARX-01a. Audis best efforts put them at 7th (Capello/McNish car) on the starting grid. Admittedly, the LMP2 cars were quicker basically everywhere on the circuit except at the very end of the main straight. To take an overall win, Audi would have to play catch-up, not something they were used to.
Despite being the underdogs for the overall win, Audi put their best attributes – consistency, efficiency, and torque – to work. The team took the overall lead in the race with approximately 50 minutes remaining by getting the jump on three cars during a green flag restart. Unfortunately, the big win wasnt in the cards for Audi as the Penske Porsche RS Spyder piloted by Romain Dumas passed the R10 driven by Emanuelle Pirro with about 3 minutes to go in the race. Pirros R10 was forced to go well off the main racing line to pass a set of slower GT cars. During this maneuver, Pirros sticky racing slicks picked up debris which tends to form towards the outside of the course. This slowed Pirro down enough that he could no longer fend off the more maneuverable Porsche. Although not taking home the overall victory, Audi still swept the LMP1 category proving the versatility of the R10 TDI platform and scoring yet another 1-2 finish.
- Photo Gallery: Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix
- Discussion: AudiWorld Motorsports Forum