Tag Archives: Audi

Is Prototype/Sportscar racing now the purist’s haven?

Now I should put a small ‘disclaimer’ here first: I am and always will be a Formula 1 fan, first and foremost. My love for the sport is undying. In asserting myself as a motorsport ‘purist’ I am not distancing myself from F1, or indeed distancing F1 from a ‘purist’ notion of motorsport. With that done, let’s continue…

After watching, and thoroughly enjoying, last weekend’s 6 Hours of Spa, the 2nd round of the relaunched World Endurance Championship, I had a thought. What with all the extra ‘aids’ that now go into to F1 in order to benefit what too many people (worryingly in my opinion) refer to as ‘The Show’, and the media frenzy that surrounds the championship, is the FIA’s other ‘marquee’ circuit racing series now a sanctuary for those fans who need a fix of ‘pure’ racing?

One thing that can’t be ignored when exploring this theory is the dominance of a certain manufacturer in the top category of LMP racing, that being Audi. They race their cars to prove their technology and to refine for future road use. They are also, aside from now Toyota and previously Peugeot, the only large manufacturer making LMP1 sportscars. This gives them a huge financial advantage over their privateer competition, and means that like at Spa last weekend, the amount of Audi’s that are entered usually finish in unison going from 1st to the whatever the number of Audi’s entered is (in Spa’s case, 4, 2 of which were the hybrid models, the other 2 being the regular cars). This might not seem that exciting on the face of it, basically knowing before the event that one team is going to win the race, but the key point is that aside from actually a pretty farcical diesel-vs-petrol engine balancing act being undertaken by the ACO (one that has been dragging on for far too long), there isn’t much being done to peg back the Audi’s. And why should there be, they’ve made the best car aerodynamically and mechanically. If Lola or Wirth Research had the money from their customer teams to go and build a super aero car then I’m sure they could, but their current cars are as fast as their budgets will allow. The unofficial ‘petrol class’ is actually very hard fought by very professional teams, and that in itself is worth viewing alone. They are racing for that chance that an Audi might fail, and the extra points a higher place would give them. That also doesn’t mean that they aren’t developing their cars, as Rebellion Racing showed when they turned up at Le Mans last year with a bespoke aero package developed soley for their use by their chassis manufacturer Lola.

They all run on tyres that can either be stretched out for multi-stints, or be leant on hard and used for maximum pace in one 45 minute stint. There’s no need for overtaking aids like DRS as the cars all have different power and torque curves, as well as slippery bodies that allow for good slipstreams into passing zones. The cars are mechanically and aerodynamically different, as the regulations for each category don’t pigeon-hole designers and engineers into homogeneous solutions. Audi are running a Turbo-Diesel V6, but within the same regulations Toyota have built a brand-new petrol V8 for their first tilt at Le Mans since back in 1999, and Rebellion even run a different Toyota V8 to that!

Like I’ve noted in my disclaimer, this is not me saying that I now prefer sportscar racing to F1, but I’ve grown into it a lot more over the last 3-4 years, and with the current state of F1 and it’s initially exciting, but ultimately unfulfilling, racing, it’s fast becoming a nice place to sit down and enjoy several hours of proper, unmanipulated racing. Good drivers driving good cars quickly. I hope lots of F1 guys watch the upcoming Le Mans 24 Hours and take notes, because I anticipate a corker of a race…

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