Alexandre Premat believes Audi is in good shape to challenge Peugeot for victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours, despite being out-paced in qualifying and this morning's pre-race warm-up.
The Frenchman is sharing the #3 R15 TDi with Porsche-contracted drivers Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. The trio will start the race seventh and were the only Audi crew not to attempt a flat-out lap in qualifying. The #3 car was also the quickest of the Audi's in the warm-up, albeit a couple of seconds off the pace of the #8 Peugeot.
Despite Peugeot's pace advantage so far, Premat is confident that the Audis will be much closer in race conditions.
"I cannot say how much it is, but in the race for sure we will be much closer to the Peugeots," he told AUTOSPORT. "I think, in the end, the pace from Audi and Peugeot is nearly the same."
He concedes that Peugeot has an advantage in straight-line speed, but expects Audi to claw that back by making its tires last longer on long runs.
"We know that in the straight line they are much quicker than us, maybe six or seven kph, which is really bad for us because we need to push a little more the car in the corners -- especially under braking. But the stints of the tires are important. We need to find how they [Peugeot] will work as well, whether they are doing two, three or four stints on each tire.
"To do four stints with the same tires would be really nice, but maybe the performance from the car and the tyre will not be so well, so we have to be careful when we plan the strategy. It will be a big thing, because to change tires takes 20 or 25 seconds now, then when you have to catch up 25 seconds on the track it is difficult.
"The tires look really good for us, the car is stable under braking and very good into the corners. OK, we have a little bit of understeer but the car feels really good everywhere. I think definitely that we are using less rubber than the Peugeot cars, so we feel that we can improve on them in this area. But this is the maybe only part that we can gain compared to them."