March 4, 2005

19 Years After the Legendary Commercial:
Audi Breaks Ski Jump Record Again

Source: Audi Canada

  • In the remake it is the turn of the Audi A6 to conquer the ski jump
  • Up an 80 percent gradient, 47 metres in the air with quattro drive
  • Audi returned to the scene of the 1986 ad, to Kaipola in Finland

Kaipola, Finland, 24 January 2005, 1.27 p.m: the expression on Uwe Bleck's face is probably much the same as when he is putting his car into the garage at home or driving to the shops. Behind the wheel, he looks calm and relaxed. It is hard to believe that, after quite literally scaling new heights, he has just parked his Atlas Grey Audi A6 4.2 quattro 47 metres off the ground at an angle of 37.5 degrees - and that is approximately equivalent to an 80 percent gradient. On a ski jump!

The Audi engineer has repeated a feat that only rally driver Harald Demuth had achieved before him, in 1986. Back then, Demuth climbed the Pitkävuori ski jump in Kaipola, Finland in a red Audi 100 CS quattro (136 bhp) for what has become an almost legendary quattro commercial. In doing so he set a record that had stood until Uwe Bleck got behind the wheel. To mark its "25 years of quattro" anniversary, Audi has now filmed a sequel to this ad on the same jump. The 45-second film "Ski Jump 2005" will be broadcast on television from 5 March.

Hans-Christian Schwingen, Head of Marketing Communication at AUDI AG, explains something else that is special about this film production: "This was the first time that we had realized such a complex film production without an agency. Everything was managed internally by Audi - a fact that we are particularly proud of!" Project manager Silke Mathews and Gerhard Kiefer, responsible for film productions at Audi, coordinated nearly all the tasks that are otherwise performed by an advertising agency. Kiefer also acted as the film's director: "It was great. It's not often you get the chance in your job to work on a project like this."
Kiefer's task was to produce a remake of the ski jump ad, making sure of course that the dramatic effect of the new ad is based very closely on the 1986 original. And this was also the director's problem: "The difficult thing for me was to make a film which everyone already knows the end of, but still to maintain the tension," explained Kiefer. He therefore devised the ad as a kind of duel between the ski jump and the Audi A6 as the challenger.

The music for the film was specially composed by Robert Pabst and performed by the choir and orchestra of the "Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz" in Munich with an ensemble of some 80 musicians. The plan at the moment is to broadcast the film on television; its showing as a cinema commercial is, however, being considered. The ad is again designed so that it can be shown in as many markets around the world as possible.

To make the commercial, the 40-strong production team was present on the set for at least a week in January 2005. But first of all the ski jump, which is located around 300 kilometres north of Helsinki, had to be brought out of hibernation. Previously, the Pitkävuori ski jump had not seen any action since 1994 when it was closed down. Repair work had started three weeks before the actual start of filming. The ravages of time had noticeably taken their toll on the jump's timberwork. The planks of the wooden ramp, for example, had to be completely renewed.

"Safety first" was the underlying principle for the entire project. Keeping the car in the steeply angled position at the top of the jump was the biggest challenge. As soon as it stopped there it would immediately slide back again. The A6 therefore had to be "held on to" at the top. To solve this problem, an ingenious system was fixed to the ski jump and to the bottom of the car. The "roll-back safety device" was equipped with three independent systems. It was located on a steel baseplate and weighed around 65 kilograms. This "sled" was installed to the underbody of the 335 bhp Audi A6 (1.9 tonnes) and merely served to prevent the car from sliding back; it was not able to pull it.

The Audi A6 4.2 quattro with 6-speed tiptronic that drove up the ski jump was otherwise a perfectly normal production version. Two minor exceptions: the automatic transmission was kept in first gear - the slight power loss that occurs when changing gear would have made it impossible to climb such a steep gradient - and the six-millimetre spikes on the tyres. Tyres of this kind are also used in rallying.

It was then time for Bleck to start his breathtaking ascent into the sky. In first gear, at 4,200 revs per minute and at about 60 kilometres per hour, the A6 stormed up the jump, taking the 80 percent gradient with incredible ease. Later Bleck said: "I could have gone faster, even at the steepest point." Nine seconds later, Bleck arrived at the starting gate, 47 metres off the ground. Bleck drove the A6 all the way up the ski jump a total of eleven times.


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