February 26, 2001

Audi Faces Tough Challenge to Defend its Titles

Auburn Hills, Mich. -- When the season-opening round of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) kicks off at the Texas Motorsport Speedway with the Leather Center Grand Prix of Texas on March 4. The Audi squad will face a tough challenge: defending its Le Mans and ALMS titles.

Driving the number 1 Audi R8 will be Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen. In the companion R8, carrying number 2, will be Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro. The Audi drivers will be focusing on gaining valuable ALMS points in this first round. "We will not rest on our successes and will give everything to defend our titles," says Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Sport.

To start the new season, last year's best sportscar, which scored a 1-2-3 Le Mans victory and clinched the ALMS team and driver titles, receives a new name. Due to the intensified partnership with high-tech specialist Infineon Technologies AG, the racing sportscar is now dubbed the "Infineon Audi R8."

The two Audi racers have been fitted with several technical modifications under the unchanged body. "Standing still in motorsports means taking a step backwards," declares Ullrich. "Therefore, we've improved many important details on the R8 during the off season." In the pre-practice at Le Mans on May 6, the 2001 spec will be run with optimized aerodynamics.

In the 2001 season, the two Infineon Audi R8s will compete with the start numbers one and two. "You can only earn the start number of the title defender by working extremely hard, and so we are proud to be carrying it this year," says Ullrich. The Audi drivers' memories of the 2.32 mile Texas circuit, which consists of a high speed oval and a narrow infield, could not be better: Last year Audi celebrated a 1-2 finish despite extremely hot conditions, as the mercury soared past 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This time the rivers can expect more temperate conditions: Weathermen forecast spring-like weather of less than 70F.

To ensure that the Audi drivers can cope with the strains of the forthcoming racing season, Dr. Christian John, team physician, organized an intensive training program in St. Moritz, Switzerland, at the end of February. "The program was to work on stamina and overall fitness. It was also important that the drivers spend time together to further strengthen their team spirit," said John. His opinion after six hard days in the snow, "Our boys are ready, the season can begin."

The race will be televised live on Speedvision starting at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 4.