I am rooting for the Audi

LEMANS, France — At six am Saturday morning here in the Seattle area the 82nd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will get underway and since this year for the first time in seven years, I will not be at the track nor in the press room that overlooks the front chute of this very famous track I will be in front of my television watching the action with hundreds of million race fans around the world and celebrating another Le Mans father’s day weekend.

Of course when you are sitting in the press box, the cardinal rule is “No Rooting” — but since I won’t be there my hopes are for the No. 1 Audi. There are several reasons for my rooting interest.

First and foremost, I remember as if it were yesterday getting up at o-dark-thirty and watching the end of the race on Sunday morning with my son. It was his interest in Audi and his penchant for endurance car racing brought us to our first race at Le Mans in 2007, where among other things we produced this. We have shared many moments together watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans and at Circuit de la Sarthe. There is nothing like sharing a common love with your son.

But I am also rooting for the No. 1 Audi because I love an under dog and of the seven factory cars in the race at this writing they are perhaps the 100 to one shot of winning. You will recall that on Wednesday Loic Duvall reduced the car so much flotsam and jetsam after a hard crash at speed at the Porsche curves.

Thankfully, Duvall was not seriously injured but was not cleared to drive. He was replaced by Marc Gene who will team with Mr. Le Mans — Tom Kristensen and Lucas di Grassi for the race.

While I have the greatest admiration for all who are racing this weekend, I have had the chance to talk with a couple members of the Audi Team. I have further seen this team perform at the highest level when they have been under the gun.

Last year when Kristensen, Allan McNish (now retired), and Duvall won, Kristensen wanted to dedicate the win to his father who had recently passed away after a bout with cancer.

On the victory podium, speaking to 25,000 fans or so, he spoke from his heart. It had been a hard fought win over the Toyota but the victory was tempered as a result of the death of countryman Allan Simonsen in an accident early in the race.

He said from the top of the podium, “This victory is very special to me. I recently lost my father to cancer. Before his death he told me, that I would win Le Mans this year with my teammates. He gave me the strength and passion for motorsport and has been in my thoughts throughout the race – therefore this victory was for him. But my father can wait. This Le Mans success I am dedicating to Allan Simonsen. A friend and a great fellow countryman.”

This year the Audi team has been uncharacteristically off-song. They crashed out at the first World Endurance Championship (WEC) race at Silverstone where the Toyota finished first and second. At the WEC race at Spa the Toyota was a winner again and the No. 1 Audi was second, a moderate achievement given that the team had to rebuild both cars.

So now, they are seventh on the grid and are still looking to dial in the car after it was virtually built from the scratch between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon.

But most of all I would like to see Tom Kristensen be able to dedicate one last victory Le Mans win to his father.

On Father’s day. How appropriate!

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