J is for Jump - Get Ready for the Audi R 10
The on again off again vamp till ready excursion of Ingolstadt's replacement for
the R8 is about to take flight. Gotcha ! How many times have you heard that line
this year ? What a mystery the new Audi is. A recent conversation with Allan
McNish at Laguna Seca only added to the controversy, as even Nishy as a current
factory driver had not yet seen the R10.
All of that is about to change on December 13 in the city of light, Paris.
Audi will finally take the wraps off the R10 to a selected group of journalists and a
whole new round of speculation will take root.
This is déjà vu all over again. Back in December of 1998 I boarded a Lufthansa
flight from L.A. to Berlin by way of Frankfurt. This is one of those ridiculous turn
around trips that are the standard of automotive PR - land, get to the hotel, change
for dinner, listen to what they have to say and see the product and get up the next
morning and go home. The reason for the trip was to attend a party put on by Audi
AG to show us the first generation R8 and the formal introduction of Reinhold
Joest as the go to guy for Ingolstadt. Many had a low moan of laughter when in the
prepared remarks it was stated that Audi planned to win Le Mans outright in a
short time. No one is laughing anymore. By the way, I didn’t go home the next day -
Berlin is a great city to hang out in.
There appears to be little interest of the mothership in the form of Audi AG to get
the word of the R10 out to anywhere but the borderline of Ingolstadt to La Sarthe.
Audi and VAG have so cleanly put their stamp on Le Mans with the R8 and the
Bentley that the dept. of Sarthe is just another region of the fatherland. The
message of the R10 is clear as is the choice of the debut in Paris, racing in
America is a nice diversion but it's Le Mans that matters baby.
No press release has been issued but all indications are that the Pina Colada
drinking werewolf of motorsport will be back at the helm of the R10 assault.
Reinhold Joest or at least members of Team Joest will invade Sebring for
extensive testing with the R10 the second week of January. At least that is how the
script has been written. The formula is the same and Audi knows better to mess
with such a proven offense. Sporting metaphors aside, the blending of Joest
personal with that of Sport Audi is seamless.
So where does this leave the Magic Man's Champion team ? I doubt that they
even know what to expect. Tradition dictates that a werks team gets the new car
until Le Mans and then a selected semi-werks squad will get the hardware after a
full wash and wax detailing. Based on that logic, the best scenario of Sebring that
Champion can hope for and get by with, is the werks R10 with a Champion logo
on it and a driver wearing Champion nomex. And within that is the beauty of the
whole mess… how many Team Joest, Velox, Audi UK, Audi Japan, Audi France
and Bentley drivers have driven for the Magic Man ?