Our friend Andrew Mara from Audi Australia had a chance to chat with Romolo following the Bathurst 12. Here's a copy of the discussion.
Romolo Liebchen: Audi Customer Racing
Audi finished with three cars in the top 10. Are you happy with the result?
Of course, it’s a good sign for our customers that the cars are reliable and you can go for endurance races. What I’ve heard so far from the United Autosport and Mark Edi from Network Clothing is that they’re happy with the result. They had their own problems but that’s normal race.
On the other side the result was a little frustrating. Never the less the Phoenix Audi came 5th, in the same lap and 30 seconds behind the winner, which is really close after 12 hours. Everyone could see that we never had a chance to go into the fight with the other competitors. We were able to do a quick laps in the morning when the car was alone but when you have to go in and fight on the straight line… acceleration and top speed let us down.
The cars were consistent across the weekend?
Yes there have been no major issues.
What do you think of the Mount Panorama track?
This is the fourth time here for us and Bathurst is in my top five race tracks. It’s a track with so much character and it’s so challenging for the drivers and for the cars. It’s unique and much more interesting compared with the new designed tracks that are very safe… something is missing on those new tracks.
Is there a section of the track that you see as the most challenging for the drivers?
It’s the top of The Mountain, because of the walls. If you make a mistake you have a real problem. At the same time it’s the exciting part of the track, the altitude; steep on the way up, steep on the way down. It’s so special.
The last two years have been quite hot, 38 degrees today (100F). Do you need to change anything on the cars to account for the heat?
No, not anymore. The first year we were really close to the temperature limits that the standard road car engine allowed, but then we made the evolution of the car and we improved it with bigger side plates and bigger oil coolers and since then it’s not an issue anymore. We’re stable running in these kinds of conditions.
Track temperatures were at 57 degrees (134.6F), was that really tough on the tyres?
No. It was really unusual. We were able to run on really soft compounds, but normally we would have to run really hard compounds in these conditions. We never ran the hard compound on the Phoenix car today. I’m not sure what they did on the Pirelli cars, but in the morning we ran the S7 and got up to S8.
You’ll be back in Australia next year?
If it was up to me, definitely. For me it’s not acceptable, two years in arrow to not be on the podium. This race is growing and the competition is getting fiercer and it’s becoming a real international event. Every year it gets stronger.
Is there any frustration looking back at Daytona?
No, not at all. Daytona wasn’t frustrating for us because it was such a great race and we were in a real position to fight for the win. I don’t think it’s a shame to be second in a race like this; it was a real positive for us. What was really great is that customers have been able to achieve such a good result.
What was behind the curtain? We don’t know. Everyone understands that there are some things like this that will need to be improved for next time, but I think we should be a little patient. It’s a new organisation and there are a lot of new people in new positions. I am absolutely sure that the problems will be solved for next time and we won’t need to discuss such things.
How do you rate your chances at Sebring?
We don’t have much experience there, except testing in the past and it was only with the GT 3, not with the GT D car and not with these tyres. I think we will manage this quite well and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
The American market seems to be growing quite well for Audi customer racing…
From last year to this year we have made a big step. We are doing well in the races, but people not only see that it’s a great car, they can see the level of support that comes with it, the spare parts and everything else. It’s a complete package.