Proper take-off

The start is the most thrilling moment of any car race and poses a special challenge to racing drivers. Audi factory drivers Lucas di Grassi and Jamie Green explain the best way to move off the grid.

12/11/2019 Reading Time: 5 min

Audi e-tron FE06 on the racetrack

THE CARS

Audi e-tron FE06 on the racetrack

Audi e-tron FE06

The Audi e-tron FE06 is a racing car with an open cockpit and covered wheels, powered by an electric motor. With this single-seater, the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team is contesting the current 2019/2020 Formula E season. Its Audi Schaeffler MGU04 motor-generator unit delivers a maximum output of 250 kW (340 hp). The torque it generates by means of electromagnetism is transferred to the rear wheels via a single-speed gearbox. The Audi e-tron FE06 achieves a top speed of about 240 km/h.

Audi RS 5 DTM on the racetrack

Audi RS 5 DTM

The Audi RS 5 DTM is a two-door touring car according to Class 1 regulations using an IC engine. With this racing car, Audi won twelve of 18 races and all three championship titles in the DTM’s 2019 season. The turbo power-plant with petrol direct injection (TFSI) has two litres of displacement and delivers more than 450 kW (610 hp). Its torque gained from the combustion of 102-octane petrol is transferred to the rear wheels via a semi-automatic 6-speed gearbox. The Audi RS 5 DTM achieves a top speed of up to 300 km/h.

THE DRIVERS

Lucas di Grassi

Lucas di Grassi

The Brazilian (born in 1984) has been racing in Formula E ever since the inaugural season and is the most successful driver in the all-electric racing series so far. No other driver has clinched more podium finishes and points. In addition, di Grassi won the first ever Formula E race in 2014, became drivers’ champion in the 2016/2017 season and together with his German fellow factory driver Daniel Abt won the teams’  championship with Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler in 2017/2018. Off the race track, Lucas di Grassi is one of the most dedicated ambassadors of electric mobility as well.

Jamie Green

Jamie Green

The Englishman (born in 1982) has been racing in DTM since 2005 and for Audi since 2013. The 17-time DTM winner is one of the most experienced and acknowledged drivers in the popular touring car series. Green was overall DTM runner-up once (in 2015) and has often numbered among the title candidates almost up until the end of the season. In 2017 and 2019, he won the teams’ title together with his German fellow factory driver René Rast in Audi Sport Team Rosberg. Alongside DTM, Jamie Green has also been active in GT racing with Audi since 2018 and gathered initial testing experience in an Audi Formula E car in 2019.

Feet on pedals

STARTING PROCEDURE

Both Formula E and DTM use a standing start format. The drivers line up in rows of two on a grid with positions offset by at least one car length. The starting lights have five red lamps, respectively, and operate in both racing series like this: after the first red light has been switched on, the other ones successively follow until all five are lit. After a brief time span, all five computer-controlled lights go off simultaneously. This releases the start and the entrants are allowed to drive off the grid.

FORMULA E

Audi e-tron FE06 on the racetrack

Moving into grid positions

Lucas di Grassi in the Audi e-tron FE06: “At the so-called pre-start, which in Formula E is located at varying distances from the starting zone, depending on the race track, I engage the driving gear by pushing a button. Then I use my right foot to depress the accelerator pedal on the right-hand side and drive into my slot on the grid. Shortly before reaching my final position, I cause the rear driven wheels of my car to spin in order to warm up the rear tyres and improve grip of the tyre tread. Unlike my Audi colleague Jamie Green in DTM, I do all this without receiving any instructions on team radio.”

Audi e-tron FE06 on the racetrack

Starting

Lucas di Grassi in the Audi e-tron FE06: “I look at the starting lights and watch the red lamps. As soon as they go off, I depress the accelerator pedal and start racing. Basically, this is pretty easy.”

Lucas di Grassi in the Audi e-tron FE06

Potential starting mistakes

Lucas di Grassi in the Audi e-tron FE06: “When driving off the grid, it’s possible to misjudge your pressure on the accelerator pedal. For instance, you may be pushing it too hard, sending too much power to your rear wheels, which causes them to spin too heavily. This will cost you acceleration, plus one or even several positions. You may also lose some spots by responding to the starting signal just a little bit too late.”

DTM

Audi RS 5 DTM on the grid

Moving into grid positions

Jamie Green in the Audi RS 5 DTM: “Following the formation or warm-up lap which in the DTM always covers the entire race track, I proceed down the start-finish straight together with all my competitors. Now every driver heads for his slot on the grid. Because the boundaries of these markings cannot be judged with millimetre accuracy from the low and far rearward position of the cockpit of a DTM car, every driver is guided into his slot by his race engineer on team radio. In my case, Erich Baumgärtner, one of Audi Sport Team Rosberg’s most experienced crew members, guides me. By issuing the commands four, three, two, one, he counts down the last metres. Very important: besides the remaining distance, Erich also has to control my pace using his visual judgement. The reason is that if I approach my position too fast, I won’t be able to stop in time when he issues the ‘stop’ command and I’ll drive beyond my slot. That would result in a penalty and immediately ruin my chances for positions at the front of the field in the race.”

Audi RS 5 DTM on the racetrack

Starting

Jamie Green in the Audi RS 5 DTM: “As soon as the first of the five red lamps goes on, I engage first gear by using the paddle shifter. At the same time, I fully depress the clutch pedal with my left foot. With the tip of my right foot, I depress the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal at the same time with the heel of my right foot. This is especially important on race tracks with downward-sloping start-finish straights. On my dashboard, I watch my digitally displayed engine speed. As soon as the five lights have gone off, I fully slide my right foot onto the accelerator paddle, simultaneously lift my left foot to release the clutch pedal and shift into the next higher gear while accelerating.”

Jamie Green in the Audi RS 5 DTM

Potential starting mistakes

Jamie Green in the Audi RS 5 DTM: “You may, for instance, miss your slot on the grid, which, unfortunately, happened to me in one of my two home rounds at Brands Hatch last season. Or you may stall the engine and then have to restart it. My team-mate René Rast experienced this at the Norisring in 2019 but still won the race. Obviously, you’ll also lose time and positions by simply starting too late. The opposite of this is jump-starting, in other words starting before the lights have gone off. This may be caused by a wrong personal reaction but also by a technical defect of your car, for instance on the clutch.”

PROPER
TAKE-OFF

Audi RS 5 DTM on the racetrack
Steering wheel
Audi e-tron FE06 on the racetrack

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