A brief interview with ... Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich
Congratulations on Audi’s tenth Le Mans victory. From the perspective of the Head of Audi Motorsport, how difficult was it to clinch this success?
It was the most difficult Le Mans race that we’ve ever contested, but also the sweetest result. One key to success: We used the qualifying sessions to work out a solution with Michelin to drive five stints on one set of tires. And that was exactly the backbone of our strategic strength in the end. We were able to go out five times on the same set without any problems. Our car wasn’t too difficult to drive. It was particularly strong in the quick passages.
In the end we didn’t know whether Peugeot would be able to drive one more lap more than we with one tank filling. So we had to take a risk. In addition there was the problem that we had a slow puncture of the left rear tire. Our plan had been to drive all the way up to the end on one set of tires. With such a narrow lead we couldn’t have recovered the time an additional stop would have taken. We didn’t take a risk and fitted new tires. We were exactly within the pre-calculated amount of fuel. One more lap and we wouldn’t have reached the finish line.
You defeated a challenger who was numerically stronger all the way up to the end. How was that achieved?
The entire team of Audi Sport did an excellent job. Everyone worked together one hundred percent and for a single car toward the end. Nobody left the pits; everyone was working for one car - up to five people on the strategy. Normally, that doesn’t necessarily work out. But there were many good ideas. We had a chance and made the right decisions. But we take our hats off to Peugeot. They pushed themselves and us to the limit today. We know our rival Peugeot and know that they’re always very strong. All four cars of our competitor finished the race. We were just fighting with one car in the last two thirds of the race. And, what’s more, with a driver squad which in total had the least amount of experience at this 24-hour race. The other six drivers have won it before, and three of them have even done so several times. Nevertheless, our drivers always perfectly did what we wanted them to do. I’ve always wanted to let these drivers contest Le Mans because their potential for something special was obvious. Therefore, I also didn’t change the driver squad compared with last year. And now we gave them the most difficult task. We required them to drive really fast but without taking any risks.
Two of your drivers had severe accidents and remained unharmed. So Audi ultra lightweight technology and passive safety do not contradict each other? The Audi R18 TDI is a very stable car. I would like to emphasize the cooperation of the designers. The ACO which takes a strong stand on safety standards deserves to be thanked as well. For this race no stability test had been planned. But then two trials took place anyhow and the result was good - not for our cars but for our drivers.