AUDI SPORT: THE UNIVERSAL DRIVER

Nico Müller is the universal driver at Audi. The 26-year-old factory driver from Switzerland is active in racing, testing and development in four different categories: DTM, GT endurance racing, the FIA World Rallycross Championship (World RX) and the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.
Nico Müller started out in motorsport as a kart driver in 2004. From 2008 to 2013 he moved up in single-seater racing, winning a title and races aplenty.  In 2014, Müller joined Audi where he switched to touring and sports cars. 2016 saw him win his first DTM race. Today, the automotive all-rounder from the Bernese Highlands is quick in any racing car sporting the four rings: the  Audi RS 5 DTM, Audi R8 LMS, Audi S1 EKS RX quattro and Audi e-tron FE04

NICO MÜLLER EXPLAINS HIS FOUR CURRENT AUDI RACING CARS:

AUDI RS 5 DTM

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AUDI RS 5 DTM

The Audi RS 5 DTM is a touring car prototype. It is the 2017 championship winner and was developed further for 2018. The regulations that apply to them require DTM touring cars to be fitted with specification chassis, gearboxes, brakes, steering systems, fuel cells, foldable rear wings, tyres and, since the current season, a specification aero package as well. The front, longitudinally mounted, aspirated V8 engines have 4 litres of displacement and deliver more than 500 horsepower. The engine’s power is put on the track via the rear wheels. 
The core element of every DTM car is a standardised safety chassis with a driver cell (monocoque) of carbon fibre reinforced plastics, combined with an equally specified tubular steel roll cage. The body shell consists of carbon and at Audi corresponds to the shape (silhouette) of the Audi RS 5 Coupé production model. 

NICO MÜLLER ABOUT THE AUDI RS 5 DTM

My Lucie requires a very precise driving style

Nico Müller
“The Audi RS 5 DTM is my most important racing car at the moment. My mechanics from Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline that I’ve been driving for since 2016 nicknamed the car ‘Lucie’.  I have a very special emotional relationship with my DTM car as well. Sometimes I even talk to it and coax it, especially just before qualifying when we both have to deliver top performance right on the mark.”
COCKPIT

COCKPIT

“The carbon fibre seat in the Audi RS 5 DTM is precisely ‘tailored’ to suit my body. I not only sit in it perfectly but feel very safe as well. The specification driver cell for all DTM cars, into which the seat is integrated, is one of the safest components anywhere in motor racing. That my position in the car is pretty much centred and relatively far rearwards was only a little unusual for me at first.”  
POWERTRAIN

POWERTRAIN

“Even after all the years it’s been used in DTM racing, the aspirated V8 engine with more than 500 horsepower provides really good forward momentum. In any engine speed range, across all six gears, it delivers awesome power output. In the Audi RS 5 DTM we use paddle shifters which are located left and right on the back of the steering wheel. When I pull the right one, I shift into higher and when I pull the left one, I shift into lower gear. We only have to use the clutch to drive off from standstill.”
HANDLING

HANDLING

“Thanks to its monocoque design, the Audi RS 5 DTM hardly flexes during directional changes. For me as a driver, this means that this car gives me an extremely large amount of feedback. I always feel exactly what it does anywhere on the circuit. However, my Lucie requires a very precise driving style. The reason is that neither ABS and traction control nor pre-heating of the tyres are permitted for her, so I have to use the steering wheel with great precision. My basic rule is: in case of doubt, only go to 99 per cent of the limit rather than trying to push it to 101 per cent. Otherwise you’ll start sliding and will sacrifice valuable lap time.”
“But that’s not the only reason why my Lucie requires a particularly intuitive driving style. Another one is the specification tyres from Hankook. I have to handle them with great care so that the two sets I’m allowed to use per race consistently provide me with optimum grip during both stints without wearing prematurely. Additionally, the fact that aerodynamic downforce has been reduced for all DTM cars by about 25 per cent since the 2018 season requires us drivers to be especially cautious at the wheel. That’s because less aerodynamic grip means you start drifting sooner in cornering situations if you risk too much speed. And drifting also means time loss.”

Audi R8 LMS

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AUDI R8 LMS

The Audi R8 LMS GT3 is a production sports car, specified according to the FIA GT3 motorsport regulations. It is based on the second-generation Audi R8. The Audi R8 LMS GT3 has been sold since 2015 and is used by Audi customers around the world in endurance racing. It is a great success, both in racing and commercially.
The key qualities of this racing car in a nutshell: state-of-the-art racing car technology, highly efficient aerodynamics and a safety level surpassing the required standards. The chassis of the GT racing car and the production model are produced at the same manufacturing facility. The aspirated V10 engine for the racing version (5.2 litres of displacement, up to 430 kW (585 hp) of power output) is also assembled on the same production line as the road car’s unit. It is longitudinally mounted behind the cockpit. The Audi R8 LMS GT3 has rear-wheel drive.
In one of the total of eleven 24-hour races won with both generations of this customer sport racing car, Nico Müller was one of the victorious drivers: at the Nürburgring in 2015.

NICO MÜLLER ABOUT THE AUDI R8 LMS

This Lucie does not belong to me alone

Nico Müller
“By now, switching from one type of racing car to another has become easy for me. I’m able to just mentally flip a switch, change from one mode to another and immediately adjust to the respective new car because I’ve captured and memorised the diverse characteristics of the vehicles really well.” 
COCKPIT

COCKPIT

“In contrast to all other racing cars I drive at Audi, I have to take turns at the wheel with two or three teammates in the R8 LMS GT3 during the races. Mainly, this means that we drivers have to find compromises so that the car will fit everyone’s needs. That starts in the cockpit. The seat has to be adjusted so that all of us will feel comfortable in it. The Audi Protection Seat PS 3 made of carbon fibre reinforced plastics is of huge help in this respect. Due to its stiff structure and permanent connection to the chassis, it generally offers high levels of safety and thanks to its adaptability to diverse physiques, optimum support for every driver as well.”
“The steering column can be quickly adjusted in height and length. The pedals are easy to adjust as well. I drove the Audi R8 LMS most recently in the 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps. It was also called ‘Lucie’ and I shared this Lucie with my DTM colleagues Robin Frijns and René Rast. Visually, I feel that the cockpit of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 is even more spectacular than that of the Audi RS 5 DTM because my endurance racing car has a lot more switches, levers and buttons. Obviously, that’s because there I have ABS, traction control, full beam headlamps, etc., etc. That means you have a lot more things to adjust during a race.”
POWERTRAIN

POWERTRAIN

“The aspirated ten-cylinder engine of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 is really wonderful. You have tremendous power in any engine speed range. Its sound is awesome too. Plus, shifting its semi-automatic six-speed gearbox using paddles in the steering wheel is very easy and comfortable.”
HANDLING

HANDLING

“The huge aerodynamic downforce it produces in cornering is something that particularly keeps impressing me in the Audi R8 LMS GT3. For me, it’s THE major forte of this car. However, you shouldn’t let it fool you into cornering at excessive speed. Especially in endurance racing, you have to watch your tyres, which at Audi are supplied to us by various manufacturers depending on the racing series.  Even though my wheels are fitted with pre-heated tyres that immediately provide top grip, I handle them gently, especially on the first few laps following a tyre change.” 
“In addition, ABS and traction control guarantee handling stability for the Audi R8 LMS GT3, so you don’t have to worry about your wheels locking up when you brake or spinning when you accelerate. Obviously, both are extra-pleasant on a wet track. Like on all racing cars, I also basically prefer this suspension setup for the Audi R8 LMS GT3: a front axle providing a lot of stability and a live one at the rear that’s easy to control with the throttle in cornering. Fortunately, Robin Frijins and René Rast have the same preferences. That made it very easy for us to work together at Spa in this respect as well.”

AUDI S1 EKS RX QUATTRO

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AUDI S1 EKS RX QUATTRO

The Audi S1 EKS RX quattro is a rallycross prototype based on the production Audi S1 subcompact car. For the 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship season, Audi prepared two all-new Audi S1 EKS RX quattro to be fielded in the Supercar category for the team of its two-time DTM Champion Mattias Ekström. Compared with the first four prototypes used in Ekström’s project since 2014, they underwent further development mainly in terms of powertrain technology and aerodynamics. In the two new EKS racing cars, Audi continues the success story of its permanent quattro four-wheel drive as well. Under the bonnet of each car, a two-litre turbo engine provides the requisite power. The transverse inline-four engine delivers 426 kW (580 hp) and develops torque above 700 Nm.
Combined with its weight of only 1,300 kilograms (including the driver) and a little less than four metres of vehicle length, the Audi S1 EKS RX quattro is an extremely compact powerhouse. Underneath the bodywork, a steel roll cage provides additional stability and safety. A solid wing at the rear intensifies the car’s aerodynamic downforce. Nico Müller drove with the EKS team in two FIA World Rallycross Championship rounds in 2017. In 2018, he tested the new model of the Audi S1 EKS RX quattro.

NICO MÜLLER ABOUT THE AUDI S1 EKS RX QUATTRO

You have to control this beast every second

Nico Müller
“For me, as a driver trained in circuit racing, the Audi S1 EKS RX quattro is an exotic car: an exotic car that’s incredible fun to drive. That’s why I’m very thankful to my former DTM teammate Mattias Ekström for this exceptional driving pleasure.”
COCKPIT

COCKPIT

“In the Audi S1 EKS RX quattro, you sit in a production car that has been emptied, or more precisely, left empty. Everything in it appears rustic and brutish: the retrofit safety cage, the steering wheel, the gearshift leaver and, above all, the huge handbrake lever. The pedals are quite conventional: accelerator, brake, clutch. The seating position is a little higher than in a touring car and sports car, but I quickly got used to that, as well as to sitting extremely close to the steering wheel. That’s necessary because otherwise you couldn’t manage to make all the quick corrections in time that are constantly necessary on the twisty rallycross tracks.”
POWERTRAIN

POWERTRAIN

“The relatively small, turbocharged engine turns the Audi S1 EKS RX quattro into a real beast. When you accelerate with it and power-shift, it’ll squeeze your innards. You go from 0 to 100 km/h in just 2.5 seconds, which would easily allow you to keep up with a Formula One car on the first few metres at the start. That’s incredible and tremendously exhilarating. Actually, you always have an abundance of power in the Audi S1 EKS S1 quattro. In my opinion, the art of driving rallycross, above all, lies in putting the enormous power of your car onto the track as best you can.” 
HANDLING

HANDLING

“Driving with four-wheel drive was new for me and initially took some getting used to. As soon as I understood how this car really works I extremely enjoyed it, especially because I steer more with the throttle and brake than with the steering system itself. You have to control every second to make sure that this beast won’t veer off completely.”
“Also new for me as a circuit racer was the fact that rallycross alternates between tarmac and gravel. At first, I drove the Cooper tyre specified for all World RX cars more sideways than necessary. The reason was that after initially watching from an external perspective, I thought that’s how you had to do it. But even in rallycross you’re only really quick if you drive as precisely and calmly as possible. You may only let your car slide slightly. That way, you’ll handle the typically narrow corners with optimal momentum. Rallycross, that’s absolutely pure racing. No electronics, no driving aids – just you and your car. Really awesome!”

AUDI E-TRON FE04

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AUDI E-TRON FE04

The Audi e-tron FE04 is a single-seater prototype. It was fielded in the 2017/2018 ABB FIA Formula E Championship that has already ended. It is the world’s first fully electric single-seater racing series. The chassis and the aero components of the Formula E racing cars have to be identical for all teams and manufacturers. They’re built by a specialist, Spark Racing Technology, whereas the participants are allowed to develop the entire powertrain themselves. This means that Audi planned and implemented the motor, gearbox, parts of the suspension and the software for the powertrain together with its technology partner Schaeffler. The regulations limit the power output of the motor-generator unit (MGU) in qualifying to a maximum of 200 kW (272 hp) and to a maximum of 180 kW (245 hp) in the race. A single-speed gearbox is used to convert the motor’s energy into propulsion via the rear wheels.
The one-piece driver cell (monocoque) consists of carbon fibre structures with aluminium honeycombs. The profiled specification tyres of the Michelin brand are used in dry and wet conditions. In racing, the all-weather tyres are equally special as the fact that Formula E exclusively races on circuits in global cities such as Hong Kong, Berlin or New York. Nico Müller drove the Audi e-tron FE04 in January 2018 in a so-called rookie test held in conjunction with the race in Marrakesh (Morocco). As an up-and-coming driver, the Swiss tested one of the two cars assigned to Daniel Abt from Team Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, and on setting a track record, delivered a most impressive Formula E debut. In the 2018/2019 Formula E season, Müller will be a test and development driver.

NICO MÜLLER ABOUT THE AUDI E-TRON FE04

A silent rocket in which you use your hand and foot for braking

Nico Müller
“The Audi e-tron FE04 was a completely new experience for me as well, even though I’ve spent most of my time as a racing driver to date in single seaters and that, after all, means six years. However, with the Formula E car I didn’t know what to expect.”
COCKPIT

COCKPIT

“Initially, an open cockpit was like coming home for me, but the things I subsequently experienced on the first few laps in the seat precisely tailored to fit me was all new for me and very special: I didn’t have to shift any gears after driving off and heard no engine sound while accelerating, but just the airflow. Plus, when lifting my foot in front of the corners, I had no drop in engine speed in my ear and no tachometer to check my RPM, so my orientation came strictly from my view of the surroundings and sensation of my pace. That was definitely strange.” 
POWERTRAIN

POWERTRAIN

“Another impressive experience for me was using a button on the steering wheel to change from neutral into the only gear of the Audi e-tron FE04, depressing the accelerator pedal and instantly being catapulted forwards with full power. This also requires a different driving style. Because compared with an IC engine, there’s zero deceleration when you accelerate, in other words no gaps before full torque is available you don’t deliberately depress the pedal earlier like you would in a conventional racing car.”
“The real kicker in Formula E races, though, is the energy management demanded of the driver. It means that you not only have to drive as fast as possible but also as efficiently as possible in order to extract the maximum from your battery charge. This, too, was an all-new experience for me and difficult to judge at first. Another one was the recuperation of electrical energy while braking. This is how it works: you lift in front of a corner and let the car coast while pulling one of the two levers on the left and right side of the steering wheel. This causes the powertrain to switch into reverse mode, decelerates propulsion and generates electric power in the process. This power is used to recharge the battery. Only when this electrical brake of the motor is no longer sufficient, you depress the pedal and additionally decelerate mechanically.”
HANDLING

HANDLING

“The Audi e-tron FE04’s handling perfectly suited me straight away. The front of this – with a length of five metres – rather large racing car is very stable in cornering. The rear tends to oversteer in cornering, in other words to fishtail. However, this can be very effectively controlled using the accelerator pedal and counter-steering. On the other hand, braking in a Formula E car, as previously mentioned, is trickier. There’s no ABS, but just a rotary switch on the left-hand side of the cockpit wall to adjust the mechanical brake balance. This is permanently required due to the constant switching between energy consumption and energy recuperation. Otherwise you risk your wheels locking up.”

THE UNIVERSAL DRIVER

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