Between his full-season commitments in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and helping develop new LMP1 and GT3 machinery, it’s been a busy few months for Pierre Kaffer, who turns his focus to this weekend’s Nürburgring 24.
Kaffer will be gunning for overall glory in the German endurance classic in one of Audi’s new-generation R8 LMS cars, which makes its highly anticipated 24-hour race debut this weekend with a four-car factory supported effort.
“It’s a big honor that Audi has this trust to give me the opportunity to race in one of the four new Audi R8 LMS,” Kaffer told Sportscar365. “I think it’s a great car for the future. Audi Sport, as usual, has done a brilliant job.”
The new GT3 contender, featuring updated aero, weight savings and safety-related improvements from the R8 LMS ultra that claimed victory here last year, is coming off a maiden victory in last month’s VLN round.
For Kaffer, who will team with Laurens Vanthoor, Nicki Thiim and Christer Jons in the Audi Sport Team WRT-entered No. 29 entry, the promising early performance by the V10-powered car bodes well for its first true endurance run.
“It was nice to do a test with this car in VLN 2 and straight away I felt very comfy in this car and all of the things which needed to be improved from the old car have been done,” he said.
“They’ve redesigned a couple of things on the car and I think it’s a good step in the right direction.”
While Kaffer has come close to victory at the Nordschleife on numerous occasions, the German feels this year could be one of his best chances yet, particularly with the car that’s underneath him.
“I’ve grown up at the track and my dream has been to win this race one day,” Kaffer said. “Many times, I’ve finished second or third and of course my dream would be to fight for the victory.
“That’s my biggest aim and I think on paper, with the drivers and the cars, we should be one of the 20 cars that can win this weekend.”
There, however, remains some unknowns heading into the weekend, particularly with how the implementation of new slow zones at three sections of the 15-mile circuit will impact the race.
“In the end we all know that you need a bit of luck on your side,” Kaffer said. “With all of the speed limits and stuff around, I think it’s pretty difficult not to score a penalty and I think that will be the major key.”
Having come off four races in the last five weeks, including podium finishes at Long Beach and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with Risi Competizione, it’s been a whirlwind past month for Kaffer, who will also take on the 24 Hours of Le Mans in ByKolles Racing’s CLM P1/01 AER.
Despite jumping between GT3, GTE and LMP1 cars, Kaffer said he’s been able to quickly adjust to the different types of machinery.
“I have to say that I’m quite used to it,” he said. “Of course I always need some laps for myself but the teams are always so nice to give me the time. It usually takes me only one run and I’m set to go.
“Of course, all of the experience I’ve had in the past has helped me a lot. So far, I’m feeling really comfy with all the things I’m doing.”
Kaffer, who got his first laps in the updated CLM P1/01 at the FIA WEC Prologue test at Paul Ricard, said the team has an additional test scheduled prior to the Le Mans Test Day on May 31, which will see further developments to the LMP1 privateer entry.
“I think it’s quite a good car,” he said. “The first step we saw at Spa but it’s not representative because of the weather conditions. Now they have all the materials for the pre-test and there we will see where the car is.
“Le Mans is obviously the biggest race in the world and it’s nice to be part of it. With the new updates on the car, we should be able to at least fight with the Rebellion cars.”