After missing out on the overall victory in the Total 24 Hours of Spa by only seven seconds last year, Marc VDS Racing is once again spearheading BMW’s charge to keep Audi from another win in the endurance classic.
Speaking to Sportscar365, Nürburgring 24 polesitter and DTM ace Augusto Farfus gives insight into Belgian squad’s preparations, expectations and the competition in its quest to score a first 24 Hour win.
“We had a strong race last year, which helps us to understand better what needs to be done to get there,” Farfus told Sportscar365. “We’re definitely better prepared than last year.
“It’s very difficult to put a number on [our chances], but I can say is that we are not coming here with an Olympic spirit to just start the race.
“Our clear target is to win the race; we’re not really interested in anything else.”
Farfus explained that the electrical problems (TC and ABS) that hindered the car in the final hours last year are understood and shouldn’t come into play anymore.
The Belgian team ran an almost perfect race at the Nürburgring in May, but finished second to the new Audi R8 LMS, again with an incredibly small margin of only 40 seconds.
“The car finished the way it started the race, and that is super positive. That’s what you need,” the Brazilian continued.
“Like the Nürburgring, Spa is not a race anymore where you just need to finish, you have to get to the last three-four hours of the race with the car in perfect shape to be able to push.
“Last year we had a really strong car, but we didn’t optimize the race. I think that’s where we need to focus now, maybe that’s a bit our weakness.”
The test day proved to be very productive for Marc VDS, with both cars gathering a good amount of mileage and ending the day in P1 and P3, without particularly pushing for a quick time.
“Our goal was not to focus on performance or being very fast, but just work on certain areas to improve,” Farfus said. “For instance, understanding the tires better. I did a full race stint, to see how the tire drops off, if we can double stint.
“The Pirellis changed a bit with new front tires. So it changes a little bit the balance of the car, that’s another focus point.”
While many manufacturers are involved at Spa, most eyes will be on another round in the Audi vs. BMW battle, with Farfus indicating that Audi’s new GT3 will be hard to beat.
“Honestly, we don’t have a lot more to put in the car,” he said. “We showed all we had at the Nürburgring.
“You hear people saying Audi is hiding something, but I don’t know. Hopefully we can get a fair race, and they don’t just turn up the engine whenever they need it and fly away.”
Farfus is adamant there are also some advantages to running a proven car at the end of its life cycle, though with four new cars taking part in the race, Audi has a big security net in place when a failure might occur.
“The Z4 is as ready as ever; it has been on the market for so long,” he said. “Now it’s about fine tuning, squeezing three extra laps from the tires and further improving the fuel consumption.
“Audi is running a new car, while it does seem very strong, they are still learning.”
Not only the car is a known quantity, also on the driver front continuity is key, with the return of Nick Catsburg (competing with TDS last year) being the only major change compared to 2014.
The Dutchman will share the No. 46 entry with Markus Palttala and Lucas Luhr, with Dirk Werner moving over the No. 45, joining Farfus and Maxime Martin.
“The main thing is to be consistent, more than being fast,” Farfus said. “Handling the traffic, keeping a good pace, tire management… I think that’s the key.”