The financial and motoring communities of Germany, and indeed the whole world, are fascinated by the ongoing struggle as Porsche tries first to take over Volkswagen and then to survive the Wolfsburg giant's own attempts at control. Wiedeking versus Piech-it's one of those sorts of contests where you would like both sides to lose. But this situation is so fast moving that it's difficult to keep up.
But it isn't just in the boardroom or stock exchange (and in this case, the Family Schloss) where VW/Audi are locked in combat with Porsche. In late May the venue was the Nordschleife and the 2009 Nurburgring 24 Hours. This has been Porsche's stomping ground over the past few years with the thinly disguised "werks" outfit of Manthey Racing dominating proceedings. This year things would be different, however.
As on the road, Audi is making advances into areas that Porsche would normally consider its own exclusive territory. The V8-powered Audi R8 is a direct competitor to the 911, and the supercar V10 is looking at GT2 customers. This is getting serious. On the track too, Porsche has a new opponent in the GT3 class, the Audi R8 LMS, and just to make sure that the boys from Weissach get the message, Audi entered four examples in the German Endurance Classic.
Of course, a quick glance at the entry list would make you think that the Audis and Porsches were privateer entries-Manthey, Phoenix, Abt-but just look at the driver lineups.
For Porsche it was Timo Bernhard, Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Marcel Tiemann in Car 1 and Emmanuel Collard, Wolf Henzler, Richard Lietz and Dirk Werner in Car 2.
If anything, Audi was even more blatant with DTM superstars Timo Scheider and Matthias Ekstrom leading the pack of Le Mans winners, Marco Werner, Emanuele Pirro, Frank Biela and Hans-Joachim Stuck, together with other sports car stars Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Marcel Fassler.
If further confirmation were needed, motorsport top brass in the form of Dr. Ullrich was much in evidence and the final confirmation came when I saw my colleague at Audi SportPresse, Bodo Kraling, climbing up a ladder trying to make an Audi team picture under the direction of Eva-Maria Vieth. Getting serious, indeed.
The Nurburgring 24 Hours is one of the best-kept secrets in motorsport. The event is run round a 25km combination of new and old parts of the Ring. It attracts a huge crowd of 200,000-plus, which becomes well refreshed during the four-day festival. The throng was entertained this year by a field of more than 170 cars and 500 drivers-a bit down numbers-wise compared to recent years, but if anything the quality was higher.
Although it was clear that the battle for outright victory was going to be between the two German cousins, there were also factory efforts from Lexus, Nissan, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Aston Martin, Volkswagen, BMW and Alpina. All these brands scrapping over the various class prizes and adding to the increasingly cosmopolitan flavor of the event.
From the moment the cars took to the track it was clear that the pre-race favorites, the Porsches, would have to be at the top of their game to stay in front of the relentless Audi pack.
There was a late change to the script, instead of one of our two boys being on pole there was a charge from a GT3 version of the Ford GT. This interloper also snatched the lead at the start of the race and held Marc Lieb at bay all the way till the first pit stops. Then, as quickly as it arrived, it disappeared and eventually retired.