Dries Vanthoor believes the official Audi Sport teams “can be there” vying for outright victory at Nürburgring 24 despite the manufacturer’s best factory-backed car qualifying outside the top 10 in difficult conditions.
Heavy rain during Friday’s Top Qualifying 2 upset the order of SP9, with BMW and Mercedes-AMG entries in the foreground and Audi and Porsche behind.
The best Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo on the grid was the #11 Phoenix private car in eighth position, while the best car with extensive factory support was Audi Sport Team Land in 13th position.
The rankings came after Audi Sport Team Phoenix driver Vanthoor set the fastest lap of the weekend so far – an 8:12.319 – in a largely dry Qualifying Session 1 for earning one of four spots for the pole shootout, which took place in a rain bath. conditions.
Audi Sport Team Car Collection failed to advance from Top Qualifying 1 after Christopher Haase placed fifth, putting this car outside the top 20. The Phoenix R8 that Vanthoor shares with fellow 2019 winner Frank Stippler, Robin Frijns and Mattia Drudi start 14th.
An Audi finished second in dry warm up this morningeven if the race should not take place without the influence of the rain.
“It’s always a big fiasco here, with each brand doing their own thing,” Vanthoor told Sportscar365 when asked about Audi’s chances in N24.
“It’s always a great game. I think we’re not looking too bad, at least in the dry. In the wet we clearly saw that we had some issues and hopefully we can sort them out for the race.
“In general, we can be there and be competitive. I don’t think we are the fastest.
“The weather hasn’t been easy all the time. Everywhere else it’s sunny and 20 degrees, but the Nürburgring always surprises you.
“Compared to the other Audi teams, we all work together so we all know what to expect. We have some differences but nothing major. But I expect a great race.
“Of course, I expect the Mercedes and the Porsches to show their speed in the race.
“Normally the Porsche is still quite strong in the wet. But [in Top Qualifying 2] it was wet again, because it was like a qualifying session in a swimming pool.
“For sure they will come back in the race and they will be competitive. If you look at last year BMW was also very strong in the wet, so it is not surprising that they are there again. But that makes it interesting.”
Audi was affected by a balance of performance adjustment on Friday morning, which came after four and a half hours of practice sessions throughout Thursday.
The new BoP gave the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos 10 kg more weight, as well as an increase in the diameter of the air restrictor. It is the only SP9 car to receive extra weight this week.
Audi customer racing manager Chris Reinke told Sportscar365 that the automaker has the tools and teams to “overcome” the “reactive elements” of racing such as BoP and inclement weather.
“We have a very experienced and strong team of drivers,” said Reinke.
“We have a very strong and sorted product with the R8 LMS GT3 Evo on track. We have the proven competence of our entry teams with Land, Car Collection and Phoenix Racing.
“We have improved and advanced engineering staff guiding the entire operation. We’ve improved in every category that might matter, and hopefully the whole thing can hold up.
“There are reactive elements over which we have no influence, which are the weather and BoP elements.
“We are unhappy there, but hopefully with the strengths of the category that depend on us, we can win.”
Vanthoor suggested that while the Audis should be able to handle wet weather, the R8s will only be effective up to a point.
“Honestly, I don’t really think a changeable half-wet, half-dry weekend is optimal,” he said.
“We have always struggled a bit in this area. It really depends on the conditions and the wet part and the dry part.
“Of course I think we will be more competitive in the dry, but it will be the same for everyone: it’s a more confident feeling and the more knowledge they all have, it’s in the dry. . In the wet, if it ain’t wet like [Top Qualifying 2]I think we can be strong.
“But if it gets too wet, we will suffer much more from aquaplaning than other cars.”