With Audi's R18 TDI taking pole position for its race debut at the Spa 1000km, hopes are high from the German manufacturer of taking first blood in its battle with Peugeot for honors ahead of June's Le Mans 24 Hours.
Last year's Le Mans-winning crew of Timo Bernhard, Mike Rockenfeller and Romain Dumas will start from the front ahead of the other two works R18s.
Germany's Rockenfeller spoke about his hopes for the weekend, the potential of his machinery and the question of heavy traffic at the Belgian Grand Prix venue.
Q: What have you learned about the new R18 TDI so far at Spa?
MR: Some things, but not a huge amount. I only got four timed laps [in Saturday practice] because the session got stopped. We've had red flags in every session so far, and really isn't good for the rhythm. It's just so busy on the track all the time, because there are so many cars here.
Do you have the car where you want in to be for the race?
MR: We're most of the way there. The car feels good, but we still need to make some more changes for the race
Q: The cars look rooted to the track through the quick corners. Are you running a typical Spa aerodynamic package, or a lower-downforce Le Mans-spec package?
MR: We're in Le Mans spec. Sure we can adapt it for Spa by adjusting the rear wing or running a different gurney on there, but it's not a specific Spa package. We're here to learn things for Le Mans and that is the most sensible way to do it.
Q: Are you impressed by the advantage the R18 seems to have over the Peugeot, as usually at Spa it's Audi that is chasing?
MR: It's a nice feeling. Any time I've been behind a Peugeot in a quick corner, like Eau Rouge, I felt like I was making up some time
Q: Will dealing with traffic be more important than normal, as there are over 50 cars due to start the race?
MR: Yes. It's the same number of cars at Le Mans, except on a circuit half the length. Also, we don't have the [Mulsanne] straight, like at Le Mans, which is where you can overtake a lot of cars easily. If you compare Spa to Sebring for example, the corners are mostly faster, so there's less chance to pass someone on the brakes.
Q: Where will that affect you most?
MR: The really quick corners like Eau Rouge or Blanchimont. There is only one line through there, so you just have to follow [a slower car]. You can lose three seconds straight away and it's very hard to get that back. It's not like, for example, the first turn at Sebring, which is much wider, so you can pass people under braking.
Q: Would you like less cars on track?
MR: Of course, because, especially around Spa, you just want to enjoy the race and enjoy your laps. But that's always been a part of endurance racing and it's the same for everybody.