Even though Mercedes is heading into this weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa as the clear favorite, DTM driver Nico Müller reckons Audi still has a decent shot at the overall win as the leader of the chasing pack.
Together with WRT, the Swiss driver won the Nürburgring 24 and came in second behind the Marc VDS Racing BMW Z4 GT3 at Spa last year.
“We can be confident, especially knowing what we’ve been able to do on Thursday night,” he told Sportscar365 on Friday.
“I think it doesn’t make too much of a difference whether you start on the first or third row for a 24-hour race.”
Based on the results from Thursday’s sessions, Müller believes the Audi will be competitive, although Mercedes-AMG blew everyone out of the water by sweeping the top-six positions in Super Pole.
“Mercedes is definitely the favorite. The Nürburgring 24 has shown that. Obviously the BoP was different, but the car looks strong,” said Müller, who is sharing the No. 28 Audi Sport Team WRT car with Laurens Vanthoor and Rene Rast this weekend.
“I see Audi as the first of the chasing group. I like that position, to be the chaser. They’re the ones to beat.”
In wet conditions Audi was predominately at the top of the timings screens and with rain expected for most of Sunday, the weather could give Audi a boost towards the end of the race.
“It really depends for a large part on tire pressures, judging on how much water is on track, how fast the track will dry up, those will be the deciding factors on pace,” Müller said.
Audi’s factory involvement at Spa is down from four to two cars compared to last year, with WRT and Phoenix fielding one “Audi Sport” R8 LMS each.
“It won’t change our approach this year,” Müller said. “We won’t go crazy in the beginning and take any silly risks, but to be able to fight for the victory in the end we’ll have to push.
“We’ll really start going for it from the morning hours, that’s when the race will really start. With such a strong lineup and team behind us, our goal is obviously the podium.”
Müller is one of several DTM drivers doing some GT3 racing on the side, with Gary Paffet being the latest ace to join this select group.
“It’s cool to race against some of my DTM rivals here in a different environment,” Müller said.
“GT3 requires a whole different approach. It’s endurance versus sprint. You share a car with two other drivers, you need to take that into account when setting up the car.
“Maybe you don’t work as much on details as we would do in DTM.”
Even though GT3 is a program aimed at customer teams and drivers, the 24-year-old reckons the latest generation of GT3 cars have very much advanced.
“The car is a very high level car in terms of aero and it requires a bit of a different driving style, mainly due to the Pirelli tires, which are a bit particular,” he said.
“Audi asks us if we’re interested in doing some GT3 racing and obviously there’s also some requests coming from teams.”
Spa is Müller’s final GT race of the year for now, after a focused effort around the two key 24-hour GT races.
“I really enjoy driving the car and to be able to do that with such a strong lineup and a team like WRT is a privilege,” he said.