Spending the weekend on location at the American Le Mans Series' Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta this past weekend we were immersed in news about any potential Audi LMP participation for the 2011 season via Audi Sport staff. There's both good news and bad news to report.
Audi has confirmed that it plans to race the full season of ILMC rounds next year and likely with its new car. Sources inside Audi Sport have hinted that the company is considering all sorts of options in regards to augmenting the car with electric mobility of some sort be it a hybrid setup or a KERS flywheel setup as seen this weekend on the Porsche 911 Hybrid run by Rockenfeller, Bernhard and Dumas. Final details about the car remain unclear given the ACO has yet to finalize its own 2011 rules but current regulations regarding a single tire changer that negated the advantage of an open cockpit car may likely see Audi go to a closed canopy design as it experimented with in 1999 with the R8C.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich told us at Le Mans that testing would begin in December and that by March there would be no turning back should the ACO change its rules beyond that point. By that point, details of the R18 would have been committed to and Audi would not have a chance to redesign.
LM P1: No Audi R15 TDI for Remainder of 2011 ALMS Season
Audi had expressed interest in running the remainder of the ALMS season with the R15 TDI. Rumors even pointed to teams such as Penske, Highcroft and Wayne Taylor Racing being considered to fill the role left open by Champion Racing. Unfortunately, multiple contacts at Audi and Audi Sport including Dr. Ullrich said this is now "unlikely". In other words, we don't expect it to happen but don't rule out the remote possibility that it could still happen. To that end we'd also like to plead with Audi to at least consider the upcoming new Baltimore Grand Prix event that happens virtually in Audi of America's backyard.
Here's a quote from the ALMS State of the Series summary about Baltimore.
Worth noting here though is one last think Dr. Ullrich mentioned. The subject of privateer teams such as the R10-running Kolles squad at Le Mans. Ullrich suggested Kolles was a bit of an exception but what he'd like to see is Audi market importers such as Audi of America having the ability to field a current car or a year-old version of a current car in racing. In other words, don't be surprised if the second year of the R18 sees cars in the ALMS or maybe Le Mans fielded by entities like Audi of America. In the past this has also included Team Goh (Audi Japan), Oreca (Audi France) and Audi Sport UK.One area of growth comes with the advent of a new race in Baltimore, a coveted Northeast market, on Labor Day weekend next year.
“The Baltimore Grand Prix will be a real crown jewel on our schedule next season,” said Atherton. “The course along the Inner Harbor is perfectly suited for our fans and one that will provide our partners with excellent marketing opportunities. The location being right next door to Washington DC and our green racing links to the EPA and Department of Energy is another significant positive.”