Audi is still undefeated in the 2013 sports car season. All five rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) went to Audi Sport Team Joest. In addition, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro won the Sebring 12 Hours. Most recently, at Austin, Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich’s squad celebrated the 100th overall victory of an LMP race car from Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm. Now the next sporting milestone is just around the corner. On the Fuji circuit in Japan, Audi may achieve the early defence of the World Champion’s title in the manufacturers’ classification on October 20.
Although Japan is located about 9,000 kilometres from Germany the style in which Audi Sport was received at Fuji on the WEC’s first visit a year ago was overwhelming. An enthusiastic Japanese crowd welcomed Audi race drivers and Audi Sport Team Joest as if they were at home in Japan, asked for autographs throughout the weekend, and vociferously cheered them on. In the main grandstand, a group of fans offered an acoustic spectacle the rhythm and volume of which was more reminiscent of a samba parade than a motorsport event. 50,000 fans attended the race at the time.
Several Audi factory drivers who either spent many years of their careers in Japan or are still at home there contributed to the huge popularity of the Audi team. Tom Kristensen (DK) drove in Japan for four years, his team-mate Loïc Duval (F) has been active in the land of the rising sun since 2006 and lives in Tokyo. Together with Allan McNish (GB), who frequently travelled to Japan in the past as a test driver, they are leading the WEC drivers’ standings with a 33-point advantage following their third victory of the season at Austin.
Their own team-mates are their closest rivals. André Lotterer (D) has been involved in Japanese racing series since 2003 and lives in Tokyo, his partner Benoît Tréluyer (F) spent twelve years of his racing career in the Pacific island state. Only Marcel Fässler (CH) had no connection to Japan before the WEC round at Fuji a year ago. But this did not keep the passionate fans from welcoming him on banners as warmly as his team-mates.
Aside from the joy before the event, there are some hard facts indicating that Japan will be an important race. Audi may win this year’s first World Championship title right at the sixth WEC round. Audi’s advantage over Toyota amounts to 69 points, with a total of 52 points yet to be awarded at the two rounds following Fuji. Thus, finishing the race is the prerequisite for securing the title early. But there is much more at stake. After Audi was defeated at Fuji last year, the R18 e-tron quattro is to cross the finish line as the winner in 2013. In the competition, Audi will be meeting with two race cars from challenger Toyota.
In terms of business, the Asia-Pacific region is important for the Audi brand as well. In the first nine months of the year, Audi increased its sales in the region by 20.2%. Japan, with deliveries up by 16.9% to 21,400 showed one of the strongest growth rates among the ten largest sales markets of AUDI AG.
Fans can watch the event on the track in the foothills of Mount Fuji on the internet. Audi is broadcasting the action by live streaming on www.audi-motorsport.com. Additional background information is made available on the Audi Sport App, Twitter and Facebook.
Timetable (local times, CEST +7 hours)
Friday, 18th October
- 11:00–12:30 Free practice 1
- 15:30–17:00 Free practice 2
Saturday, 19th October
- 09:30–10:30 Free practice 3
- 13:55–14:20 Qualifying
Sunday, 20th October
- 11:00–17:00 6-hour race