Audi confirm DTM racers for Le Mans
|By Matt Beer
||Tuesday, May 22nd 2007, 14:16 GMT
Audi have confirmed that DTM racers Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Alex Premat will race their third R10 TDi in the Le Mans 24 Hours, while former DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom has been put on standby to replace Tom Kristensen in the no.2 car if the injured Dane does not recover in time.
"I'm convinced that by deploying our seasoned drivers, who rank among the world's absolute elite of sportscar drivers, and our promising juniors, we are well prepared for the battle against Peugeot," said Audi Motorsport boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich.
"At the same time we are giving three young drivers the big chance to fight for overall victory at Le Mans for the first time. This is also a part of our motorsport concept.
"By fielding a third car, we are increasing our chances of again being successful. Experience has certainly shown us how quickly a team can 'lose' a car at Le Mans. The costs incurred for a third vehicle versus a two-car team are reasonable."
Luhr, Rockenfeller, Premat and Ekstrom all tested the R10 at Paul Ricard in June and "left an outstanding impression" according to Ullrich.
He added that Audi preferred Ekstrom to concentrate on the DTM, hence the decision to keep him in a standby role.
"We opted for the combination of Luhr/Premat/Rockenfeller because we want Mattias to concentrate on the DTM, in which he has good chances of winning the title," Ullrich said.
"Le Mans is exactly between two important DTM races at Brands Hatch and the Norisring."
But Ekstrom will take Kristensen's place alongside Allan McNish and Dindo Capello if the Dane does not recover from the severe whiplash that he received when he spun into Premat's path on the opening lap of the Hockenheim DTM race last month.
"At the moment we're assuming that Tom will be fit again by the time of the Le Mans race, but of course there's no guarantee for this," said Dr Ullrich.
"Basically, he's doing well. However, when he subjects himself to excessive physical strain, Tom does not yet feel totally fit.
"These are normal symptoms after this kind of accident. At the moment, no doctor can predict when he'll be fit again."
Audi's number one car will again be driven by last year's Le Mans winners Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner.