Tony O'Kane | Mar 20, 2009

Audi's all-new R15 TDI endurance racer - the successor to the all-conquering R10 TDI - has scored itself a prime position at the head of the grid for Saturday's 12-hours of Sebring enduro after placing second during qualifying yesterday.

Pipped to the post by the Acura/Honda of Scott Dixon, Audi's Tom Kristensen still managed to steer the diesel-drinking race car around Sebring within 0.082 seconds of Dixon's fastest time.

Kristensen's teammate Mike Rockenfeller wasn't far behind either, trailing Kristensen by only two tenths of a second and claiming fourth position on the grid.

Audi R15 TDI

Still, while Kristensen's 1:45.360 and Rockenfeller's 1:45.551 best qualifying laps are indeed impressive, previous practice runs have proven the R15 TDI has plenty more in it. Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, the head of Audi Motorsport elaborated:

"The grip level in qualifying was not at the same level as the previous practice sessions," he said.

"I would also like to reiterate that we are here to prepare for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Therefore, we have not spent any time setting the car up specifically for qualifying.

"We have seen here at the very first meeting that the various vehicle and car concepts are very closely matched. We will now try to make a good race collecting as much experience as possible for Le Mans."

Allan McNish, starting driver of the faster #2 car, was also confident that the R15 TDI had the goods necessary to blitz the field at Sebring.

"The V10 engine in our new R15 TDI gives a different and improved power response compared to the R10 TDI," said McNish.

"It's most noticeable at the hairpin (Turn 7) while the better weight distribution from the smaller and lighter engine allows the car to be more agile.

"We benefit from this element especially in the Esses section (Turns 15 &16) but we can also throw the car around in the higher speed corners."

Considering Audi's previous dominance in endurance racing with their far-less-thirsty and just-as-grunty diesels, we're sure the R15 will claim just as many scalps as the R10 TDI that preceded it.

We'll find out just how many scalps on the weekend, when the R15's first on-track battle takes place at Sebring.

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