Audi Sport Team WRT driver Nico Mueller felt that the manufacturer’s cars “weren’t competitive enough” in the greasy conditions that defined the latter stages of the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
The No. 1 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo which Mueller shared with fellow DTM drivers Rene Rast and Robin Frijns was running in the top five until a crash in the final hour forced its retirement.
Mueller revealed that a succession of wrong tire choices during his second stint behind the wheel after a six-hour red flag period, combined with the slick tire pace of Audi’s rivals, compromised the car’s run.
“We lost tons of time there, one and a half minutes or so, but we didn’t want to do an extra stop because the risk was there to lose even more,” he told Sportscar365.
“And then in the drizzling conditions, on the slicks, the Porsches and the Mercedes were super strong. We had nothing to fight with them.
“To be honest, we just weren’t competitive enough in the drizzly conditions losing roughly – for Rene and myself – around two and a half seconds a lap to the Porsches.
“What is clear is that the Porsche was just very strong when the track was good enough for slicks. They were just quicker, and in the end they deserved to win.
“In the wet we were good. We actually expected more wet conditions than what we got.
“The forecast was for a 75 percent wet race, but I think we probably did 70 percent of the time we spent racing on slicks.”
The No. 1 Audi’s race was ended by an accident for Rast in heavy traffic whilst running best of the R8 Evos in fourth position with 15 minutes to go.
Mueller described the DNF as a “frustrating” end to the crew’s weekend considering its car was the lead Audi entry for much of the race.
“We had big hopes, being with WRT and Audi with a great package. With Rene and Robin on the car we all knew that we had all the cards we needed to play and go for it,” he said.
“We were all race long good in the full wet; I think that’s where we always caught up. We didn’t look so great in the middle of the race on the standings because we did our five-minute technical pit stop very early.
“It clouded the picture a bit, but we were virtually leading most of the time [before the red flag].”
Les Combes Incident Explained
Mueller felt that his spin at Les Combes whilst battling for the net lead “could have gone worse” after his car rear-ended into the tire barriers.
The 27-year-old was under pressure from Kevin Estre in the winning GPX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R when he looped around in slippery conditions at the start of a stint.
This occurred with just over two hours remaining when the leaders were transitioning to slicks for the run to the checkered flag.
“To be honest I expected to have a bit more grip straight away,” said Mueller.
“I touched the curb and the car bottomed out because we still had low pressures. Whilst bottoming out I lost the rear.
“I didn’t feel anything broken on the car. The steering wheel was straight and everything was still on. We only lost five seconds, so we were lucky on that one.
“It could have gone worse. I was told when I exited the pits that I was going to fight Kevin for the lead, and I knew they were really strong in these conditions.
“The only chance we had [for the win] was trying to stay in front, so I had to try and it didn’t work. But I think in the end, that didn’t make the difference.”