Audi at St. Petersburg

by : Benjamin Hudson

Audi luxury unit of Volkswagen and recipient of quality have again displayed its unmatched performance at St. Petersburg. Two of Audi's R10 TDI sports cars will start Saturday's second round of the American Le Mans Series in St. Petersburg (US State of Florida) as the fastest LM P1 prototypes from the second and fourth rows of the grid.

Last Friday in the first ever appearance of the revolutionary diesel-powered sports car on a street circuit, defending champion Allan McNish headed the field for its last free practice session. He also set the pace with the 650 hp R10 TDI at the beginning before being demoted to third position by the fastest two LM P2 sports cars.

Allan McNish tries to get back to the lead unfortunately his Audi R10 TDI crashed into a wall and slightly damaging the rear of the car. Marco Werner on the other hand was a little more cautious at the wheel of the 'sister' Audi maintaining a gap of almost a second to pole position. After the drooling race Marco Werner has obtained the seventh position.

Here is the starting grid in St. Petersburg:

1 Dumas/Bernhard (Porsche) 1m 03.039s
2 Maassen/Briscoe (Porsche) 1m 03.189s
3 Capello/McNish (Audi R10 TDI) 1m 03.415s (1st LM P1)
4 Fernandez/Diaz (Lola-Acura/Honda) 1m 03.432s
5 Herta/Franchitti (Acura/Honda) 1m 03.746s
6 Brabham/Johansson/Dayton (Acura/Honda) 1m 03.807s
7 Pirro/Werner (Audi R10 TDI) 1m 04.139s (2nd LM P1)
8 Dyson/Smith (Porsche) 1m 04.376s
9 Wallace/Leitzinger (Porsche) 1m 04.845s
10 Lewis/McMurry/Willman (Lola) 1m 08.536s

Quotes after the qualifying

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "The qualifying results proved our computer calculations: On this track and with the current regulations, the LM P2 cars are just in a better position. Despite this and with a lot of effort, Allan (McNish) tried to get on to the front row. If you take maximum risk, it can happen that you spin. Fortunately there is not much damage to the car."

Dindo Capello (Audi R10 TDI #1): "It's going to be the toughest race to date for the Audi R10 TDI. Allan showed in qualifying that we have good speed and now we must try to reproduce that pace in the race for 2 hours and 45 minutes. I believe that this will be difficult for us to achieve compared to the lighter and more agile LM P2 cars. Turns 5 to 8 especially hurt our heavier car. But the times we have achieved are better than we anticipated, especially after walking the circuit yesterday."

Allan McNish (Audi R10 TDI #1): "I pushed to the absolute maximum and unfortunately pushed a little too hard resulting in me hitting the wall exiting Turn 9 after trying to carry too much speed through. Porsche had taken away my provisional pole position and I wanted it back. A good qualifying position was vital to get here and now the other battle occurs in the race. I don't know how it's going to work out for us with many different strategies being applied but we've found a good set-up for our car."

Emanuele Pirro (Audi R10 TDI #2): "The St. Petersburg event is really good and the race track very well built. Although our R10 TDI is a car which likes fast straight lines more than tight corners it's nice to share this event with the IndyCar Series. Marco did a good lap in qualifying. We have a different tyre choice than the other car. Practice time was short, so we still have to improve the set-up a little bit. But I think the condition of our car is better than our position shows in qualifying. The race is long, so I'm looking forward to it."

Marco Werner (Audi R10 TDI #2): "Things did not go too bad today. We improved from session to session -- even by a full second from the last practice to qualifying. The lap was good, the time also. But the starting position obviously is not perfect. Going into the race from seventh position means you are in the middle of the pack. It would have been nicer to start further towards the front. But more was not possible today for me. You have seen also with Allan that we are driving right on the edge."

Dave Maraj (Team Director Audi Sport North America): "Qualifying was better than I'd expected and our two Audis are closer to the Porsches than I'd predicted with the #1 Audi just three-tenth's off pole-position. As to what kind of speed the LM P2 class Porsches can run in the race compared to us we'll just have to wait and see."