Team play at the wheel
In endurance racing, several drivers have to share the work in the cockpit in respective stints. How does this team play at the wheel work successfully? Audi Sport drivers Frank Stippler and Dries Vanthoor, who together have won in an Audi R8 LMS GT3, explain how it is done.
THE TEAM LINE-UP
Audi Sport customer racing, headed by Chris Reinke, has a dedicated line-up of professional racing drivers and deploys them in its own strategic commitments and in support of customers worldwide, for instance in classic 24-hour races such as those at the Nürburgring and at Spa-Francorchamps. Two drivers who have been successful in these endurance racing events are the German Frank Stippler and the Belgian Dries Vanthoor.
“Consistency and speed, a cool head in all weather conditions and very good team skills.” For Chris Reinke, these are the key qualities and selection criteria for his regular driver squad. Audi Sport customer racing and the team principals who handle such commitments for Audi, together determine the driver combinations in endurance racing that may consist of two, three or even four drivers, depending on the duration and distance of the race. They include the successful teams WRT of Vincent Vosse and Phoenix Racing of Ernst Moser.
|Audi R8 LMS|
|Vehicle type||Sports car according to FIA GT3 regulations|
|Engine||Normally aspirated V10 gasoline engine|
|Cubic capacity||5,200 cc|
|Power||Up to 585 hp*|
|Torque||Over 550 Nm|
|Type of drive||Rear-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Sequential, pneumatically operated six-speed performance transmission with paddle shifters|
4,573 / 1,997 / 1,171
|Fuel cell capacity||120 l|
|0–100 km/h||3.2 seconds|
|Top speed||305 km/h|
* established by BoP of the series organizers
** homologation weight to be determined at a later date
BUILT TO SUIT TEAMS
There are three features allowing for the Audi R8 LMS GT3 to be adjusted to drivers of varying heights in endurance races:
In qualifying, who will compete for the best possible spot on the grid? Who will take the wheel at the start of the race? Who at night, in rain or in the final stint? All of these questions are decided at Audi Sport customer racing and its fielding teams during the weeks before an endurance race. “We know from years of experience who is best suited for which task,” says Ernst Moser. A very important thing for the good motivation of a driver crew, the Phoenix team principal adds, is this: “Everyone has to have adequate responsibility, everyone for their own specific task. For one driver, it’s qualifying, for another, it’s the start and for the next one, it’s something else.
The start driver always bears a particular burden. Dries Vanthoor has understood this ever since his first endurance race: “Be cool and stay cool, that’s crucial for success. As a team in the cockpit, and of course also in pit lane, we have to make sure not to jump the gun right from the beginning, so that, in the last three hours of such a race, we can be in contention at the front, then attack and battle for victory.”
Even so, in today’s highly professional GT3 category, every endurance race is a sprint from start to finish – even the 24-hour events. “Just the 30 or 40 seconds that you may, for instance, lose due to a mistake during a pit stop can cost you victory,” WRT boss Vincent Vosse knows from experience. Consequently, the drivers, engineers and mechanics are under maximum pressure in each phase.
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