After a spell of ten years in Formula One, with Williams, BMW-Sauber, BAR and Brawn GP, Jörg Zander joined Audi Sport on Jan. 1 as the new technical director, replacing Dr. Martin Mühlmeier.
While it may be a new job for the 51-year-old German, it doesn’t mark his first time being involved in endurance racing, as he explained to Sportscar365.
“Sports car racing is not totally new to me because I was involved with the development and the mechanical systems of the Toyota GT-One when I was with Toyota Team Europe in Cologne, back in 1997,” Zander said Wednesday during Audi’s test at Sebring.
When his activities in F1 came to an end in 2009, Swiss-based Zander set up his own engineering consultancy, named JZ Engineering.
With this company, he already was commissioned by Audi for work on the German manufacturer’s sports car project.
“I already worked with Audi in various areas of the LMP1 car for three or four years,” he said. “Among others, I was involved in simulation and design activities.
“That meant that I already knew quite a few people at Audi Sport when I arrived there in January.
“Being employed by a manufacturer is different than working with a team, for instance in Formula 1. When you are in a big [group], like Audi, there are certain rules and guidelines you have to respect, that is only logical.
“But I already was familiar with that, having worked with other manufacturers in the past.”
Zander is enthusiastic about endurance racing and the technological freedoms it provides.
“From a technical perspective, sports car racing is really fantastic, a great place to be,” he said. “With the different technologies and innovations that have come in over the past years, it is the dream of every engineer.
“From that point of view, it is more interesting than Formula 1, because there are so many different technologies and the rules are much more liberal.”
With Audi’s activities in motorsport being divided into endurance racing and DTM touring cars, Zander is responsible for the technical part of both programs.
“But I have to say that I have dedicated most of the time to the endurance program so far,” he said. “The work on the DTM car for 2015 was almost done when I came in January, and there, the rules are more strict, so there are more technical possibilities in the sports car program.”
Work on Audi’s LMP1 challenger for 2016 has already started, Zander said.
“That has already been ongoing for quite a while; the specifications are almost set,” he said. “But that is obvious, because in order to being able to run in 2016, we have to start testing at some point in autumn, and therefore we have to start producing components pretty soon.”
Unlike his predecessor, Zander intends to take up an active role within the race team and plans to attend each of the FIA WEC races this season.
“Not in terms of the daily running or the race strategy, because the team members are perfectly capable of handling that themselves, but I think it’s important to have a close link between the design and the racing operations,” he said.
“Especially for the WEC season, I plan to come to all the races to monitor what is going on and to be able to react quickly, if required.
“At the moment, I am still in the process of getting to know everybody, getting to understand what everyone within Audi Sport is doing. With a staff of over 300 people, that does take some time, but I am feeling really well at Audi.”