Fully fledged garage service
Roughly one week has been scheduled at Audi Sport customer racing’s garage in Heilbronn-Biberach before chassis number 106 has to embark on its long journey to the next race. The Audi R8 LMS GT3 to which this code belongs is still wearing its white-red body wrap and the car’s number, 125. With it, the sports car was most recently on the grid of round four of the Intercontinental GT Challenge at Suzuka where it claimed seventh position in the 10-hour race, with Christopher Haase, Christopher Mies and Markus Winkelhock, all of them Audi Sport drivers, at the wheel.
Together with its GT3 customer teams, Audi Sport customer racing has strategic commitments in the Intercontinental GT Challenge, the FIA GT World Cup and at high-calibre stand-alone events such as the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. The importance of GT3 sports car races has consistently grown worldwide over the past ten years.
Complementing these activities, Audi Sport customer racing offers the Audi R8 LMS model in the GT2 and GT4 specifications for exclusive use by customers.
At the workshop of Audi Sport customer racing, the preparation of chassis number 106 and a second Audi R8 LMS GT3 for the 9 Hours of Kyalami, a race which is part of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, continues in full swing. Two mechanics per car perform the high-speed maintenance between races in Heilbronn-Biberach. With a total crew of 35 employees, Audi Sport customer racing carries out up to twenty of these checks per year at its garage. Heilbronn-Biberach is the location at which the final assembly of every newly produced R8 LMS takes place. Michael Schäfer is the operations manager and Johannes Kind the coordinator test and race preparation.
Chassis and bodywork check
“During the suspension check we examine everything,” Johannes Kind emphasises. “Because your race can be over just because of a five-cent part if the fact that it was broken was missed,” the coordinator for test and race preparation continues. Components are either rebuilt or replaced, depending on the type of damage and according to the defined mileage limits. Take the wishbones of the independent suspensions for example: on the Audi R8 LMS they’re designed for a life of 10,000 kilometres.
Engine and gearbox check
The seventh scheduled maintenance for the 2019 season on chassis number 106 has been completed. Like for its tests and races at the Nürburgring, at Spa and at Suzuka, this is followed by a visual inspection of its livery for Kyalami. The previous look of the bodywork has to be removed and replaced. Two working days have been scheduled for this. Printed wrap instead of a paint job make this quick visual change possible. The mechanics from Audi Sport customer racing take care of stripping off the Suzuka livery. As soon as the Audi R8 LMS GT3 shows its blank aluminium carbon fibre body shell an external service provider takes over the job of providing the car with its new wrap.
For the premiere of the International GT Challenge at Kyalami, Audi Sport customer racing had a typically African livery designed. The key theme on the R8 LMS GT3 entered in the race is zebra stripes, flanked by subtle line and wedge patterns plus the country’s flag. With the design sporting local colour, Audi Sport continues a successful graphic tradition and in doing so again shows respect for the hosts. The Kyalami livery is printed on self-adhesive high-performance films using digital technology. Subsequently, it’s protected by glossy over-lamination.
Wrapping a racing car always poses the same challenge: the livery printed on the film has to be applied to the body in a way that exactly matches the sample design. Guiding lines generated by a laser beam and projected onto the car assist the wrapping staff in performing their job. However, in spite of all advanced technology, craftsmanship and a perfect eye are still crucial for the final outcome.
Once all the parts of the livery films have been positioned on the bodywork the new car numbers, plus the brand logos of Audi Sport and those of the advertising and technology partners are placed as previously defined. The same goes for the inscriptions showing the names of the driver squad: for the Kyalami race in chassis number 106 and the new car number 25, the names are Dries Vanthoor, Kelvin van der Linde and Frédéric Vervisch. This final step of the wrapping job again calls for absolute precision work with a measuring tape, cutting knife and spatula.
“The wrap of our cars not only has to be visually appealing but also practical. This is essential to making any mending that becomes necessary now and then without a major time loss,” says Johannes Kind. In addition, Kind continues, it’s important that the films are applied to the bodywork with as few layers as possible. “This requires a compromise between design and competitive thinking because each gram of excessive weight counts just as much as any edge that impairs perfect airflow.”
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