Formula E: Audi drivers ready to race in Marrakesh

From the streets of the Hong Kong metropolis to the northwest of Africa: Formula E, in which Audi is involved with a factory-backed commitment for the first time in the 2017/2018 season, is stopping in Morocco. This Saturday, ten teams and twenty drivers will be battling for points and trophies on Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan on the second race weekend of the electric racing series. Team Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler has ambitious aims. “There is a very strong motivation within the team to bounce back, and that goes for us all,” says Team Principal Allan McNish. Daniel Abt had clinched his first Formula E victory in Hong Kong but was subsequently disqualified due to an administrative error of his team in filling out the vehicle’s passport. “Although we were not allowed to carry the big trophy home after Hong Kong we now know that the Audi e-tron FE04 is a car that can win races. We are taking this positive feeling with us to Marrakesh.”

In contrast to the city street circuit in Hong Kong, round three of the season will be held on a permanent race track. “You cannot compare the Marrakesh circuit with the one at the season opener, but this is a key thing about Formula E,” says McNish. “You have to arrive perfectly prepared and be ready to adapt quickly to all circumstances on the day. Teamwork counts and that’s one of our strengths. Marrakesh is one of the very few tracks on the Formula E calendar where the team still misses out a podium finish so that is exactly what we are aiming for with both drivers.”

Daniel Abt has long digested the setback in Hong Kong. “Although I was retrospectively stripped of my victory it still feels like we won the race,” says the German. “In terms of ambience, culture and the people, Marrakesh differs a lot from the other Formula E events. Last season, we even rode camels on Friday before the race – that was really special. With respect to some of its sections the track is similar to a city street circuit. There are a lot of walls you should stay clear of.”

The reigning champion, Lucas di Grassi, is facing an unusual situation. For the first time in his Formula E career, the Brazilian’s tally does not reflect a single point following the season opener. “Marrakesh has enormous importance for us,” says di Grassi. “We know that we have a strong car that we can rely on, so I’m sure that we’ll be fast again in Marrakesh. The circuit is very special and not typical for Formula E because we’re driving on a permanent race track. Our aim is to close the gap to the top again.”

The race in Marrakesh will start on Saturday, January 13, at 4 PM local time (5 PM CET). In Germany, Eurosport will start to air live coverage at 4:45 PM (CET). A complete list of all international TV stations is available at www.fiaformulae.com.

Season opener with 13 race cars from Audi Sport customer racing

The Audi R8 LMS version that has been prepared for GT4 racing will contest the event in Dubai in the hands of privateers for the first time. The German Phoenix Racing team from Meuspath is preparing two race cars for the GT4 class. On board will be a driver team from Hong Kong which in Marchy Lee and Adderly Fong includes the first two champions of the Audi R8 LMS Cup. The second driver combination is giving an opportunity to three drivers having been promoted from another Audi one-make cup: Joonas Lappalainen and Philip Ellis were the title winners in the Audi Sport TT Cup the last two years and Gosia Rdest was another successful participant. 

Five customer teams in the TCR class are completing the brand’s lineup with a total of six Audi RS 3 LMS cars. Lap 57 Motorsports from the United Arab Emirates, the Swiss Stanco & Tanner Motorsport by Autorama Wetzikon team, the German Bonk Motorsport company from Münster, Bas Koeten Racing from the Netherlands and the Belgian AC Motorsport team are representing Audi’s colors in this class which, with 14 entrants, is well-filled. Following free practice and qualifying sessions on Thursday, January 11, the 24-hour race will be started at 3:00 PM local time on Friday, January 12. It will be the first championship round of the 24H GT Series for GT sports cars and the 24H TCE Series for touring cars.

Driver lineups

GT3

BWT Mücke Motorsport, Audi R8 LMS #9

Ricardo Feller/Christer Jöns/Mike David Ortmann/Andreas Weishaupt/Markus Winkelhock (CH/D/D/D/D)

Car Collection Motorsport, Audi R8 LMS #33

Ali Çapan/Dimitri Parhofer/Dirg Parhofer/Frank Stippler/Rémi Terrail (TR/D/D/D/F)

Car Collection Motorsport, Audi R8 LMS #34

Wiggo Dalmo/Gustav Edelhoff/Elmar Grimm/Dr. Johannes Kirchhoff/Ingo Vogler (N/D/D/D/D)

Optimum Motorsport, Audi R8 LMS #96

Bradley Ellis/Christopher Haase/Oliver Wilkinson (GB/D/GB)

MS7 by WRT, Audi R8 LMS #777

Mohammed Bin Saud Al Saud/Christopher Mies/Dries Vanthoor/Michael Vergers (KSA/D/B/NL)

GT4

Phoenix Racing, Audi R8 LMS GT #247

Adderly Fong/Charles Kwan/Marchy Lee/Darryl O’Young/Shaun Thong (HK/HK/HK/HK/HK)

Phoenix Racing, Audi R8 LMS GT #248

Philip Ellis/John-Louis Jasper/Joonas Lappalainen/Gosia Rdest (GB/D/FIN/PL)

TCR

Lap 57 Motorsports, Audi RS 3 LMS #57

Abdullah Al Hammadi/Mohammed Al Owais/Ashan Silva/Nadir Zuhour (UAE/UAE/LKA/UAE)

Stanco & Tanner Motorsport by Autorama Wetzikon, Audi RS 3 LMS #112 

Ralf Henggeler/Andrew Mollison/Luigi Stanco/Stefan Tanner (CH/GB/I/CH)

Bonk Motorsport, Audi RS 3 LMS #115 

Hermann Bock/Max Partl/Rainer Partl (D/D/D)

Bas Koeten Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS #125 

Mathijs Bakker/Ronny Jost/Anthony Lambert/JM Littman (NL/CH/B/GB)

Bonk Motorsport, Audi RS 3 LMS #127 

Michael Bonk/Axel Burghardt/Volker Piepmeyer/Simon Wirth (D/D/D/D)

AC Motorsport, Audi RS 3 LMS #888

Stéphane Perrin/Vincent Radermecker/Alexandre Renneteau (F/B/F)

Audi and Formula E: chasing seconds in the simulator

Both Daniel Abt and the reigning Champion Lucas di Grassi spend a whole day practicing in the simulator at Audi Sport in Neuburg. In a Formula E chassis, surrounded by monitors with a 360-degree view and equipped with headphones and microphones, the race drivers drive the qualifying session and the race on the track in Marrakesh.

“These intensive practice sessions are the key to success because the simulation is very realistic,” says Daniel Abt. Based on FIA data, the experts emulate the circuit on the computer in every detail – including curbs, possible vertical differences and climatic conditions. “As drivers we then have the opportunity to get to know the track and to try out various lines without any loss of practice time on race day which is short to begin with,” says Abt.

The preparation day in the simulator often lasts eight hours or more and not only serves the race drivers to prepare. “During this time, our engineers can gather a lot of important data, optimize energy management, test various software versions and simulate the process flow on a race day,” says Tristan Summerscale, Formula E Project Leader at Audi. “We’re well prepared when we hit the race track and are able to respond to new situations with greater flexibility, speed and ease.”

In spite of a certain similarity to simulator games, Daniel Abt rejects any comparison with a laugh: “One is for fun and the other is real work that all of us have to do with high concentration – even if it falls in the middle of the Christmas season.” A commitment that pays off: With 24 podium results to their credit, Abt and di Grassi have been the most successful duo in Formula E to date. This success is to be continued – in Marrakesh on January 13.