For Stefan Johansson, the 24 Hours of Spa is an opportunity to scratch a longtime itch. The Formula 1 and sports car veteran, who set the fastest time in qualifying for the No. 67 United Autosports Audi R8 LMS he shares with Americans Mark Patterson, Emil Assento and Hong Kong's Alain Li, is no stranger to endurance racing or Spa, but he's never challenged the awesome four-plus mile course in a GT3 car for 24 hours.
"This will be my 19th 24-hour race and I just love the endurance aspect, whether you win or not," he says. "Of course everybody wants to win, the goal has to be to win but when you just finish, it is just such a great sense of achievement and it is just fantastic to be out there. It's solitude, you are in the car on your own, you are just out there alone with the elements in the car. It is very pure. We all start racing because we love it, so this is about as pure as it gets. You drive a car as fast as you can, especially driving for 24 hours around here, is just amazing."
The "United Autosports" team name is especially meaningful for the Swede as his first appearance with the American-owned squad marks his return to Audi, who he rates among the best of the many manufacturer associations of his long and productive career.
“For me, it's a case of being re-united with Audi. Working with them [Audi] has been my best experience with any manufacturer that I have worked with in racing," Johansson declares. "They do everything the right way, while there is very much a family ambience within the whole infrastructure. They are extremely clever people and the cars in particular are a pleasure to drive, because they are just about perfect in every sense. There is very little detail left to be changed because they [Audi] have pretty much thought of everything.
“I first ran with Audi at Le Mans in 1999 for the Audi Sport UK team in the Audi R8C prototype. Then I ran my own car, an Audi R8. It was a great experience and we had fantastic support from the factory. I won the 2001 European Le Mans Series title in that car and also finished on the podium at Le Mans in an R8 sports prototype run by Champion Racing, so my experience with Audi has been excellent.”