***Audi Sport Dr. Wolfgang Ulrich received a standing ovation in the pre-event press conference for his long service to the sport. He expressed disappointment at the way Audi’s final season had panned out, with only a single victory at Spa to show for their efforts, but said that he had enjoyed watching the spectacle unfold before him.
“I enjoyed very much how intense and how close the racing was – I think it shows that the WEC found a way to bring three completely different cars so close together that each one at least performance-wise has a chance to win,” he said. “We couldn’t do it, unfortunately we have no chance to make it better next year, which normally would be our goal immediately, but we will try to make a good race weekend here in Bahrain, that’s all we can do.”
***Ullrich also paid tribute to the late Michele Alboreto, who was killed while testing for Audi at the Lausitzring in 2001. Alboreto, who won five Grand Prix, finished third at Le Mans with Audi in 2000 and took the marque’s first of 11 wins at Sebring in 2001.
“The biggest negative thing was the accident of Michele Alboreto, it was something motorsport does not need,” he continued. “It was tough to swallow that, because he was a really close part of the family and we missed him not only as a race driver, we missed him as a person.”
***To mark Audi’s final appearance after 18 years in the top flight, both R18s are running a special livery featuring a list of their achievements (pictured above). Rivals Toyota also have a decal on the front right corner paying tribute, which states “So long Audi. We will compete again, some day, somewhere.”
***Tom Dillmann is making his return to the WEC for the first time since Bahrain last season in LMP2 with Extreme Speed Motorsports. The Frenchman raced alongside Sean Gelael in Formula V8 3.5 last season and received an invitation from the Indonesian to join ESM in place of Antonio Giovinazzi.
“It went really well for me last year with Alpine, one win and we were on the pole as well, and all of that in the old car,” he told Sportscar365. “This will be the first time I drive the Ligier – I didn’t drive any LMP2 since here last year. It’s a bit of catch-up to do, but I’m not worried.” Dillmann’s only previous experience of racing with a roof was in a Bentley Continental GT3 in select Blancpain Sprint and ADAC GT Masters outings in 2015.
***As reported yesterday, Jonny Adam returns to the WEC for in the No. 97 Aston Martin Racing lineup, replacing Richie Stanaway. However, the Scot will have some catching up to do, having not driven the Vantage GTE in anger since Le Mans aside from a four-lap shakedown in Beechdean’s older-spec Aston Martin at Snetterton.
***No announcement has been made regarding the engine BR Engineering will use in their prospective move to LMP1 in 2018. The Russian team will partner with Dallara, marking its first LMP1 project since the Oreca-Dallara in the mid-2000s.
***Following the presentation of the mid-engined Porsche 911 RSR in Los Angeles on Wednesday, the new car will be on display in the Bahrain paddock this weekend. It’s understood to be the German manufacturer’s second chassis.
***In addition to the WEC, there will be two further world titles on the line in Bahrain, as the CIK-FIA World Championship and the CIK-FIA World Junior Championship will also be contested this weekend. ELMS race-winner Ben Hanley is among the named competitors.