- World Endurance Championship takes Audi to Japan for the first time
- Battle for title remains open after one-two victory in Bahrain
- Four Audi drivers with long-standing ties to Japan
After the fifth victory of the season in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Audi is traveling to Japan with eager anticipation. At the seventh of the season’s eight rounds on October 14, the factory team will be celebrating its racing debut in the Asian island state. The challenging Fuji circuit southwest of Tokyo is the venue for the next battle of the Audi factory drivers who are in contention for the drivers’ championship.
The Le Mans winners Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer enlarged their advantage over Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish by 6 to 13.5 points in the Bahrain heat race. With that, a title decision would be possible as early as in Japan but, with 52 points yet to be awarded, does not seem likely before the season’s finale at Shanghai.
After coping with air temperatures of more than 35 degrees in the Sakhir desert, the five drivers, in the middle of October, will be in for more or less changeable weather conditions at the venue that is within a viewing distance of Mount Fuji. Rain and clearly lower temperature are often on the agenda in the region at this time of year. With its unusually banked turns and rather untypical radii, the 4.563-kilometer track poses a special challenge. André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer are the drivers who are most familiar with the Fuji circuit. The German relocated his career to Japan in 2003 and the Frenchman has spent as many as twelve years of his life as a racer in the Far East. Tom Kristensen spent several seasons driving in the Land of the Rising Sun in the nineties and Allan McNish has a large number of test and race kilometers there under his belt as well. Only Marcel Fässler has never been to Japan.
Both squads are again relying on the Audi R18 e-tron quattro. The heat in Bahrain was deemed to be the ultimate thermal test for Audi’s first hybrid sports car. The third victory of the season clinched by the innovative prototype a week ago clearly underscores the fortes of its engineering design.
To the delight of many sports car fans, Toyota has evolved into a particularly strong opponent in the World Endurance Championship since June and is competing on its home track at Fuji. Audi, on the other hand, has never competed in Japan with a factory-level commitment. The brand with the four rings enjoys growing support by Japanese racing fans nonetheless. They accompanied a race of the Goh privateer team at Suzuka in the 2002 season with the legendary Audi R8 LMP sports prototype and have been turning out for customer-level commitments with the Audi R8 LMS GT3 sports car since the past season. On television, fans can watch the last 90 minutes of the race on Sunday from 8:30 a.m. (CEST) on Eurosport. Like at all WEC rounds, Audi is offering comprehensive coverage to the spectators at home: www.audi-liveracing.com will broadcast the race for six hours on the internet and also offer cockpit camera perspectives, telemetry data and summary reports of the race. The Audi Sport iPhone and Android apps provide WEC coverage on smartphones with live tickers, news, pictures and results. In addition, Audi’s racing fan community is kept up to speed on Facebook and Twitter.
Topics of the weekend
- Will Audi manage to clinch its sixth victory of the season on its Japan debut?
- Will the long-standing Japan racers André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer have a track advantage?
- How strong will be the response of Japanese fans to the WEC debut in their country?
- Will the decision in the battle for the drivers’ World Championship be made as early as at the penultimate round?
Quotes by the officials
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport):
"We’re looking forward to the race at Fuji. It’ll be held in completely different conditions than the past round. Instead of the high temperatures and desert sun I’m expecting around ten degrees less and changeable conditions. Two of our drivers - André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer - have an enormous wealth of experience at Fuji. I’m hoping for us to be able to show a similarly strong performance in Japan as in Bahrain."
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest):
"Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer are traveling to Japan with a relatively comfortable advantage. If our cars had finished in reverse order in Bahrain our two driver squads would only have been separated by half a point. The battle remains thrilling. André and Benoît know the track well because they’ve got many years of experience in Japan. I’m looking forward to a nice battle between our cars and a fierce competition with Toyota."
Facts and quotes by the Audi drivers
Marcel Fässler (36/CH), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1
- -Celebrated his third victory of the season in Bahrain together with his team-mates
"I’ll be competing in Japan for the first time and have heard a lot about the country from my team-mates. I only know the race track from the simulator though. My team-mates André and Ben have a large Japanese fan community. I’m very much looking forward to the ambience and the Japanese culture."
André Lotterer (30/D), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1
- -Has been racing in Japan since 2003 and lives in Tokyo
- -Is the leader of the standings together with his team-mates
"Fuji is almost a home round for me because I’ve been racing in Japan for nearly ten years and am still competing in Formula Nippon there. My team-mate Benoît Tréluyer and I’ve got a large number of fans in Japan. Japanese spectators love endurance racing. The fact that Ben and I were always running there as rivals and are now competing together for Audi makes for a very special situation. The race will be a real humdinger."
Benoît Tréluyer (35/F), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1
- -Spent twelve years of his racing career in Japan
"I’m really excited about Japan. I’ll be arriving a little earlier in order to meet many friends and acquaintances from my days as a racer in Japan. I celebrated a large number of victories at Fuji and even lived very close to the track for two years. Now I can hardly wait to be back again."
Tom Kristensen (45/DK), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2
- -Celebrated his sports car debut in Japan 20 years ago
- -Spent several years of his career in the Land of the Rising Sun
"I love being in Japan. I spent an important part of my career there. From 1992 to 1995, I was regularly driving in Japan and sporadically again in 1996. I celebrated my sports car debut there as well, as team-mate to Eddie Irvine and Jacques Villeneuve. And I also won the Le Mans 24 Hours for the Japanese Team Goh once. I’ve got very close ties to the country and its people and owe them a lot. Now I’m returning to Japan with Audi and Audi Sport Team Joest. Back in those days I was living in Gotemba and now we’re racing at Fuji, just a few kilometers away from there. I’m basically familiar with the track but the modified final section is new to me too."
Allan McNish (42/GB), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2
- -Most recently set the fastest time in qualifying in Bahrain
- -Has run several times in Japan during his career
"I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan as a racer, for instance as a Formula 1 test driver in the nineties, then as a sports car driver and again in Formula 1. I’m expecting the fans to show a really positive response to the Fuji 6 Hours. I’m familiar with the new track layout which I came to know at the wheel of an Audi R8 V10. The circuit has retained a lot of its traditional characteristics. The first part is fast and fluid and the last one very technical and difficult with a lot of camber change and general elevation change as well. This section of the track can heavily influence the race result, both due to the vehicle set-up and the time loss when lapping other cars. The weather at Fuji is unpredictable in October. When it rains in this mountain region it pours."
The Audi drivers at Fuji
Marcel Fässler (CH): *May 27, 1976 in Einsiedeln (CH); residence: Gross (CH); married to Isabel, four daughters (Shana, Elin, Yael and Delia); height 1.78 m; weight 78 kg; Audi driver since 2008; Le Mans victories: 2; WEC races: 6; WEC victories: 3; WEC pole positions: 0; WEC fastest laps: 1; best result Fuji:
Tom Kristensen (DK): *Jul 07, 1967 in Hobro (DK); residence: Monaco (MC); single (partner: Hanne), two sons (Oliver and Oswald) and one daughter (Carla Malou); height: 1.74 m; weight: 72 kg; Audi driver since 2000; Le Mans victories: 8; WEC races: 6; WEC victories: 1; WEC pole positions: 0; WEC fastest laps: 0; best result Fuji: -
André Lotterer (D): *Nov 19, 1981 in Duisburg (D); residence: Tokyo (J); single; height 1.84 m; weight 74 kg; Audi driver since 2010; Le Mans victories: 2; WEC races: 6; WEC victories: 3; WEC pole positions: 2; WEC fastest laps: 1; best result Fuji: -
Allan McNish (GB): *Dec 29, 1969 in Dumfries (GB); residence: Monaco (MC); married to Kelly, one son (Finlay), one daughter (Charlotte); height: 1.65 m; weight: 60 kg; Audi driver since 2000; Le Mans victories: 2; WEC races: 6; WEC victories: 1; WEC pole positions: 2; WEC fastest laps: 0; best result Fuji: -
Benoît Tréluyer (F): *Dec 07, 1976 in Alençon (F); residence: Gordes (F); married to Melanie, 1 son (Jules); height 1.78 m; weight 68 kg; Audi driver since 2010; Le Mans victories: 2; WEC races: 6; WEC victories: 3; WEC pole positions: 1; WEC fastest laps: 0; best result Fuji: -
All Fuji winners
2007 Noda/Yamazaki (Zytek)
Track length: 4.563 km
Race duration: 6 hours
Qualifying record on this track: Daisuke Itou (Courage), Jun 1, 2007, 1m 31.065s (180.385 km/h)
Race record on this track: Shinsuke Yamazaki (Zytek), Jun 2, 2007, 1m 33.117s (176.410 km/h)
Pole position 2011: -
Fastest lap 2011:
André Lotterer about Fuji: "At first glance, Fuji looks easy, but it’s not easy to drive at all. For the 1.5-kilometer straight, you need only little aerodynamic drag and a lot of downforce for the fast corners. The first right-hand turn is very narrow. It’s followed by a fast left-hander - the A-Corner - which is a real challenge. This section merges into the long 100 R where various lines and apices are possible. It’s fast and you’ve got a view of Mount Fuji. Next is a hairpin. You’ve got to do a good job of accelerating out of this turn onto the long, slightly bent uphill straight up to a narrow chicane. The most challenging section comes last: an off-camber right-hand turn, followed by two left-handers with hard to find apices, and then there’s another right-hander. I like the track. Slipstream often plays a major role there."
WEC drivers’ standings after 6 of 8 rounds
1 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer, 139.5 points; 2 Kristensen/McNish, 126; 3 Capello, 77; 4 Jani/Prost, 74.5; 5 Dumas/Duval, 67; 6 Gené, 49; 7 Kane/Leventis/Watts, 48; 8 Potolicchio 46.5; 9 Belicchi/Primat, 44.5; 10 Lapierre/Wurz, 44
WEC manufacturers’ standings after 6 of 8 rounds
1 Audi, 173 points; 2 Toyota, 44.
Schedule (local times; CEST -7 hours)
Friday, October 12
11:00-12:30 Free practice 1
15:30-17:00 Free practice 2
Saturday, October 13
09:25-10:25 Free practice 3
14:00-14:20 Qualifying LMP1 & LMP2
14:30 FIA WEC press conference
Sunday, October 14
17:15 FIA WEC press conference