Audi is hopeful that it has addressed the issue that’s caused chassis damage to three of its R18 e-tron quattros over the past two weekends in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The two-time and defending LMP1 World Champions were forced to replace the monocoques of both the Nos. 1 and 2 Audis ahead of this weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain, while its No. 1 car is undergoing a second tub change due to damage sustained in Thursday’s Free Practice session.
According to Audi Sport Team Joest technical director Ralf Jüttner, the root of the issue has yet to be identified, although modifications have been made to the cars for Saturday’s penultimate round of the season.
“We haven’t seen [this issue] before,” Jüttner told Sportscar365. “The first sign was after looking at the cars from Shanghai. It’s obviously [happening after] running over certain type of curbs.
“We’re looking into the data to pinpoint exactly what’s happened. It looks like it’s a central hit taken with the way the design of the floor.
“We’ve addressed it with the tools we have in hand here locally and with help from Ingolstadt, and have done some modifications in hoping this will help to get rid of the problem.”
The No. 1 car of Tom Kristensen, Loic Duval and Lucas Di Grassi will miss qualifying due to the tub change, which began this morning and is expected to be completed by late tonight. It will go through scrutineering tomorrow morning.
The latest rebuild came just 24 hours after the German squad rebuilt the No. 1 car around the first replacement tub, following damage sustained at the previous round in Shanghai. Audi elected to re-tub the No. 2 car this week in Bahrain as well as a precaution.
While the team’s traveling spare tub was used for the No. 2 car, two new tubs were flown in from Germany, although Jüttner said the first one was delayed and didn’t arrive until Thursday afternoon.
With three full rebuilds in the last 72 hours, it’s resulted in a marathon week for the Audi crew in Bahrain, which has received praise from all six drivers.
“There’s no question about it,” said Duval, who will start from the rear of the LMP1 field on Saturday. “The team is amazing. Every time they still surprise us.
“The way they built the car yesterday and the timing they did it was really impressive, as is the way they’re doing it again today. You always learn more in difficult moments.
“It’s a tough moment but in the end I think we’ll end up stronger than ever.”
With no warmup session tomorrow morning, the newly rebuilt No. 1 car will head into Saturday’s race without any track time.
However, that doesn’t concern Jüttner, who has put his faith into the crew, especially after two flawless rebuilds earlier in the week.
“It’s amazing,” he said.”These cars are complicated. To build them and to run them without any issue is a real heroic accomplishment, I think.”