The 2010-spec Audi R15 TDI (internally labeled "R15 plus") will tackle its début race from the front row of the grid. Dindo Capello recorded the second fastest time in Saturday’s qualifying for the 8-hour race at Le Castellet (France).
37 days after the roll-out of the R15 plus, the test race at Le Castellet marks the next phase in the development program of the diesel-powered sports race car. After aerodynamic tests at Homestead (Florida), a multi-day endurance test at Sebring (Florida) and tire tests at Monza (Italy) Audi Sport Team Joest uses the season opener of the Le Mans Series at Le Castellet to begin the detailed race-setup work on the updated LMP1 car.
The first conclusion: The R15 plus is sensitive to the slightest changes and is immediately fast. In two of the three free practice sessions Dindo Capello and Allan McNish set the fastest time. In qualifying, only the Peugeot 908 of the Oreca team was less than half a second quicker, which – contrary to Audi Sport Team Joest – had previously tested at Le Castellet like most of the other teams.
In order to gain as much experience as possible, Audi Sport Team Joest even used the 20-minute qualifying session on Saturday to compare two different setup versions.
The team will use the race on Sunday to collect as much data as possible for the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 12/13. Dindo Capello and Allan McNish will tackle the 8-hour race alone after Tom Kristensen decided not to start at Le Castellet in consultation with Audi team physician Dr. Christian John and the team.
Quotes after qualifying
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "We had some difficulties to find a good setup for the R15 plus for this race track and we have not yet found it. The team even tried something different in qualifying as the drivers were not happy at all with the car in the morning. But we still do not have what we imagine. We have to keep working and try to use the race as much as possible for the development of the R15 plus because you simply can learn most in a race. And of course we work on making another step in the right direction before the race."
Dindo Capello (Audi R15 TDI #7): "I’m quite happy because the car improved compared to the morning practice. Qualifying was like a fourth free practice session for us which we used to test further changes. These adjustments improved the car. But on this track the tire works just for one or two really fast laps. After the changes I was faster in some corners on the used tires than before with the fresh rubber. This means we improved the car. So I have more confidence for the race tomorrow."
Allan McNish (Audi R15 TDI #7): "Nice to be here actually racing not testing. The circuit lends itself very well to racing. The R15 plus is still very new to us. We are learning quite a lot. In every session we build up more knowledge about how the car is. The car is obviously quite quick but we need to understand the car and make it more comfortable to drive and consistent to drive over a race distance. But that you can really only do with kilometers and with the races. And that’s part of the reason to be here. Certainly for us as drivers we like the adrenaline and the competition and being back involved in it. For the engineers it gives some good information for Le Mans."
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): "We would certainly have liked to be on pole. But congratulations to Oreca, who did a good job. They also have a small advantage with their car here because they’ve been testing at the official LMS test. In contrast we are just starting. We try to sort everything out with our new R15 plus and regarding the setup we are still not quite there where we wanted to be. We even used the qualifying session to test different options and achieved an improvement. But of course the tires were not good enough anymore. Nevertheless, we are quite satisfied. And on used tires we were doing quite well here so far. So we look for good things tomorrow."
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