Defending LeMans champs quietly confident
Marco Werner has every right to be confident for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Winning there has become a tradition for Audi and the trio of himself, Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro. The threesome enters this year’s 75th edition of Le Mans as defending champions and looking to add more history at the world’s greatest motor race.
Pirro, Biela and Werner have combined for 10 overall wins and 11 class championships between them. They won convincingly last year in the Le Mans debut for the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI and reunited for a win in March at Sebring. It begs a question: Is this really the Le Mans dream team?
“We are definitely very much suited to true endurance racing – otherwise we would not have been able to win Sebring and Le Mans,” said Werner, who is looking for this third straight Le Mans win. “Frank and Emanuele have already four Le Mans victories each. This does not come by coincidence. This means they’ve done a great job without errors over many years.”
It’s hard to find success for one of the drivers without mentioning the other two. Biela and Pirro won Le Mans together with Tom Kristensen from 2000-2002 as Audi established itself as one of sports car racing’s premier manufacturers. They also shared the 2005 American Le Mans Series LMP1 championship for Champion Racing with the Audi R8.
The first of Biela’s two championships came with Werner in 2003 when the latter was a rookie in the Series. But don’t expect either of the three to rest on those accomplishments.
“Whatever you have achieved in the past doesn’t help you in the present,” Pirro said. “We have to use all the weapons to prepare ourselves in the best possible way. Although we won there last year and at Sebring doesn’t help at all. What we do have is experience, and that helps in preparation and focusing on specific items and making sure you have a setup that is good for the full 24 hours. The experience is important but the success isn’t necessarily helpful.”
On the other hand it certainly can’t hurt. If nothing else, the familiarity between the three and their crew heightens expectations even more.
“Endurance racing is a very special form of motorsport,” Werner said. “You have to share a car with other drivers. At Le Mans or Sebring you have to find a set up which suits three drivers. This worked quite well for Emanuele, Frank and me in the past. In endurance races you have to be fast and consistent at the same time. You have to avoid mistakes and contacts with other cars. We’ve been pretty good in this so far. And of course you have to have a great team behind you. We have this with Audi Sport, Audi Sport Team Joest and Champion Racing in the US.”
The 75th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is scheduled for 3 p.m. CET (9 a.m. ET) on Saturday, June 16 from the Circuit de la Sarthe. SPEED will provide 17.5 hours of coverage in North America starting at 8:30 a.m. ET on June 16. MotorsTV will air week-long coverage throughout Europe. Live coverage can be found on Radio Le Mans through americanlemans.com.