Winning comes in many forms. How it's approached is a matter of style and preparation. No manufacturer in recent history has defined this in a more exemplary way than Audi. Running separate and combined operations in Europe and the United States takes more than raw talent. Audi's success owes in part to the efforts of Ralf Juttner and Brad Kettler. This month, Juttner looks at the European side and Kettler muses about the U.S. Both are very different individuals, but each shares a common passion: winning.
Awaiting A Technical Universe
Ec: When did you decide on motorsport as a career and how did you progress to your current position?
RJ: My father worked in the race engine department of the Borgward in Bremen, also driving their racecars. When Borgward closed in 1962 our whole family moved close to Stuttgart and my father worked for Bosch, where he soon became the head of the motorsport department. During my school days I often followed him to race weekends in Germany and through this got in touch with motorsport quite early.
I studied Space and Aeronautic Sciences in Stuttgart-Vaihingen. I made my final degree dissertation at Porsche. In 1984, after my studies, I was employed in the Calculation and Simulation Department in Weissach, becoming head of the group for non-linear analysis projects. In 1990, I went to the racing department to oversee the design of a new chassis successor to the 962 for the then-new 3.5-liter Group C. Unfortunately, this project came to a halt.
Reinhold Joest was looking for an engineer and that lead to Sebring for the 12 hour race in 1992. Joest asked me to join the team. I soon took the role as team manager and technical director and in 2001 became--together with Joest--company CEO.
Ec: How have the duties of technical director changed as the cars have become more complicated?
RJ: The biggest difference is the amount of data we have to deal with nowadays. When I started we didn't even have a data acquisition system except the basic Bosch telemetry. Nothing that you really could use to make a lap or driver comparison. The basic data for setting up the car had been the lap time with any driver comments. Now you need two extra engineers for the chassis data alone; the data arrives instantaneously and everybody is 100-percent relying on it to be available and correct. The tech director is to guide all this information correctly, make sure the big group acts as one unit, and to make sure all the output from engineering is going to the people who need it. It's vital if you have more than one car. All information is shared.
Ec: The R8R's first appearance at Le Mans was by all accounts as a standard prototype, and the following year it was in a class of its own. Few programs have had that type of rapid development. How did it come about?
RJ: This is something that amazed even Reinhold Joest and myself. At the end of 1998 we were shown the first R8R and were shocked, wondering whether we might have made a mistake. Audi was really new to sports cars. We made some suggestions to make the R8R a better endurance car but things moved slower than we thought was necessary. Once the work for the new R8 moved along, all the things we asked for had created a racecar that now looks to be beaten not only on speed but also on reliability, robustness and user-friendliness.
Ec: Were you surprised at how successful the R8 was in such a short time, not only at La Sarthe, but on the traditional short circuits around the world?
RJ: The success at Le Mans didn't come as a surprise, although we had a good race at Sebring. Everybody was nervous about the first ALMS race with the R8 after Le Mans at Sears Point. I have to say, though, I believe a good racecar is a good racecar everywhere. I don't believe in cars that can be on top at one track and nowhere else, including special tracks like La Sarthe.