After three seasons of DTM and achieving success in Audi’s customer sport R8 GT program, Filipe Albuquerque is readying for his LMP1 race debut in this weekend’s FIA WEC Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
The 28 year-old is the German manufacturer’s latest recruit to the factory squad, joining Marco Bonanomi at the wheel of the No. 3 Audi R18 e-tron quattro for today’s second round of the season, as well as next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“Pressure wise, I want to maximize the car as much as possible,” Albuquerque told Sportscar365. “We’re not running for points but we want to do the best we can and to be as close as possible to the top guys.
“If the performance is in P7, we will maximize that performance. If the performance is in P1, we will maximize that performance. We’re always going to the limit of the car.”
Albuquerque, who claimed GT class honors in the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona in an Alex Job Racing Audi R8, has proven to be a quick learner in prototype machinery.
In addition to extensive pre-season testing with Audi, he’s gained race experience in Jota Sport’s Zytek Z11SN Nissan in the European Le Mans Series, an initiative that’s helped him come to grips of his new surroundings.
“I’m quite familiarized with the car and feel quite comfortable with it,” he said. “I’m just still learning each track with the car, like here.
“There’s some fast corners and [I’m learning] how the car behaves. Our No. 3 car has a different spec compared to the No. 1 and 2 cars so we’re learning the car for Le Mans and we’re going through that in maximizing the car.”
While all of the existing LMP1 drivers have had to adapt with the new driving style that comes with the 2014 regulations, it’s just been part of the learning experience for Albuquerque.
“I think the difference is that I don’t complain about the past,” he said with a laugh. “The other guys would say it was much better before with the fuel consumption and whatsoever. But I don’t know how it was.
“Definitely all of the races I did before, I never had to look to a number to see my fuel consumption. For sure, no one likes it, but it’s the rule.
“I think everyone is liking the new hybrid system. It’s much stronger than before. I come along with it. But everyone’s had to learn with that.”
Following a race to forget for Audi at Silverstone, which ended in a double retirement in the FIA WEC season-opener, Albuquerque is aware of the primary target and that’s to get the No. 3 car, sporting Audi’s new low-downforce Le Mans aero kit, to the finish.
“It’s very, very important to finish the race to recover data for the engineers to learn more about the car,” he said. “This is definitely one priority.”
As for his long-term prospects, Albuquerque has kept his expectations in check, although fully realizing his partial-season drive could turn into something more in the years to come.
“That’s the dream or the goal of the No. 3 [drivers],” he said. “It’s to do the best possible and to maybe have a shot in the WEC full-season.
“Audi is very happy with the full squad of drivers. They’re just preparing us for the future. But we will take it as it goes.
“We need to focus on doing a good job because we know these seats are really wanted worldwide.”