Three more weeks until the Le Mans 24 Hours celebrates its 90th anniversary. Since 2000, Audi has been celebrating great successes in the world’s most important endurance race with technological innovations. But none of the eleven victories would have been possible without a compelling driver squad. Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich explains his personnel strategy.
“For us, it’s important to have race drivers in the squad who also fit the Audi brand well in terms of their personalities,” stresses Dr. Ullrich, who has been at the helm of Audi Sport since November 1993. The first driver signed by the Austrian was Emanuele Pirro. He remained under contract for 15 years and today is a brand ambassador for the company. His compatriot Dindo Capello, who has since acquired shareholdings in three Audi centers in Italy, was an Audi factory driver even for 19 years, and Frank Biela for 18. All of these are unusually long and successful topcaliber careers – particularly in the service of one and the same brand. All three have won the Le Mans 24 Hours with Audi as well. Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro did so together five times.
The outstanding successes of Tom Kristensen, who with eight triumphs under his belt is the record holder at Le Mans, will always be linked to the Audi brand as well. Allan McNish at the wheel of Audi sports cars has shaped the race at La Sarthe just like Marco Werner has. And the next generation of drivers is leaving no stone unturned to become equally successful: Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer (CH/D/F) have been unbeaten at La Sarthe since 2011 and are the current FIA World Endurance Champions.
“We’ve always managed to make our drivers feel like ‘Audians,’” says Dr. Ullrich. “The brand with the four rings supports us in this. Audi has always clearly indicated how important successes in motorsport are and that the brand likes to see the race drivers as ambassadors. Our drivers are proud to be able to compete for the Audi brand that is so successful.”