Thursday, July 11, 2013

Q&A: Interview with Dion von Moltke - Daytona 24 Hours winner

By Johan Laubscher

Dion von Moltke has been a very busy race car driver in recent years. The young South African has been seen in a variety of race cars, including the Audi R8 GRAND-AM in North America. He was seen in the #51 APR Motorsport Audi during 2012, and most recently in the factory Audi Sport customer racing R8 GRAND-AM at Watkins Glen. His highlight of the season, without a shadow of a doubt, was when he won the Daytona 24 Hours (GT class) in the Alex Job Racing R8, sharing the car along with his teammates Filipe Albuquerque, Oliver Jarvis and Edoardo Mortara.

During 2012 we at the Audi Motorsport Blog spoke to Dion following a trip back home to South Africa, and published an interview featuring his 2012 season with the #51 APR Audi R8 GRAND-AM. We have recently caught up again with Dion following the Six Hours of the Glen, for another short Q&A, this time featuring his Daytona 24 Hours victory and the 2013 season. 

1) First off, please describe how it felt winning the Daytona 24 Hours and collecting your Rolex.  

To put into words the emotions and feeling I had walking up onto the top step of the podium and collecting my Rolex watch along side my teammates and having our whole team in front of me was definitely the most emotional experience I have ever had.  Motorsports is not often looked at as a team sport but to win the Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona it takes a mammoth effort from every single person on a team, and our team at Alex Job Racing and Audi Sport Customer Racing went into battle with us and were flawless for the entire 24 Hours. Since our win at Daytona I haven’t actually really been able to sit back and reflect on what happened because I have been flat out working on the next race and trying to get back behind the wheel of an Audi.

2) How did the closing minutes of the race feel, when Albuquerque was leading the race with the do-or-die fuel strategy? 

That was the most heart stopping gut wrenching time of my life to sit there and have no control over what was happening.  Olly Jarvis, Edo Mortara and I were all locking arms around one another yelling at the TV scream as we watched Filipe put in an amazing stint to hold off everyone for the last hour.  The strategy the team came up with was absolutely genius, between our race engineers Greg Fordhal and J├╝rgen Jungklaus and our data engineer Pat Fraccalvieri they came up with the best strategy of anyone on the lead lap at the end.  As drivers we were trying to do the math of what gap we would need over second place to pit for a “splash-and-dash” at the end and still come out in the lead.  As we pitted we thought we had no chance to come out still in the lead, but as Filipe came out just infront of second place and still in the lead we all though two things, “We might not be the best mathematicians, and oh my god we might actually win this thing!”  There is a great youtube video filming the us drivers standing arm in arm yelling obscenities at the TV screen where you can just see the emotions pouring out of us for the final 2 laps.  I still get Goosebumps just writing about these moments I will never forget.  

3) Describe the synergy in your driving crew at the Daytona 24 Hours, it was certainly an international mix with drivers from South Africa, Portugal, Italy and Britain.  

I have always said chemistry is always the most important thing in building a team, and I believe that was our greatest strength throughout the entire event.  The first time I really got to meet any of them was on the test days under a month before the race and we all immediately got along well with one another as well as with the entire team.  In our debrief sessions our feedback was almost exactly the same to what we wanted or needed out of the car to improve.  Also when it came to something as important as seat position we all were willing to compromise a little bit to find the best possible solution for all four drivers, it is these little key things that were so important.

4) How did it feel racing alongside the factory drivers from Audi, who were all spread among the four Audi R8 cars at Daytona?  

Just seeing my name alongside Albuquerque, Jarvis, and Mortara was something special.  Every driver dreams of becoming a factory driver and driving along side them was great.  Throughout the event you learn what has made them each so successful and you try to learn and implement those specific things to your own career and build upon it.  

5) From the outside it looked like there was a good team spirit amongst the four Audi cars entered by AJR, Rum Bum and APR. How did the cohesion feel amongst the four teams from your perspective?  

Absolutely!  We all worked very, very closely together.  We would share all information between the cars and drivers.  We would have meetings that would include engineers and drivers from all the cars together and speak about what was working or wasn’t working as a group and formed a strategy to continue to improve.  The massive amount of workload put in by everyone at Audi Sport Customer Racing as well as all the teams was the biggest reason the success we were able to have.

6) A brief description of your season so far after the Daytona 24 win in January.  

Since Daytona it has been the most hectic season I have ever had with the biggest workload in and out of the car.  The business side of racing, is the actually the biggest part of being a racecar driver but it’s something that unless you’re involved in the industry.  Since Daytona I have signed to drive with Flying Lizard Motorsports for the rest of the season in ALMS which has been fantastic, they are one of the best teams in sportscar racing internationally so it has been an honor to work with them.  On the Grand-Am side I have been able to find last minute rides for a race in most of the races which has been really nice.  I have already done more races this year than I normally do for the entire season so the extra seat time is very nice to have and also something as a driver you need to adjust to.  With the extra racing and traveling you need to manage the off weeks a little bit differently and really attack the fitness end to continue to improve and push yourself during them.  

7) You have recently been re-partnered with Mortara and Albuquerque for the remainder of the North American Endurance Championship, when did this program get finalized, shortly after Daytona or was it a more recent endeavour/decision from the team? 

From my end it was actually very last minute.  I actually found out I would be racing in the car the week of the race.  In racing as a driver you learn that the old saying “Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready” is extremely important and true.  

8) Describe how the Watkins Glen weekend went for you and the #24 Audi crew.  

It was the first time any of us drivers had even sat in the Audi R8 Grand-Am racecar since our last laps at Daytona International Speedway, so to show up with extremely limited testing and qualify top five and have a car to win the race speaks so much to how good our engineers and crew are at Audi Sport Customer Racing.  Throughout the race we didn’t have things fall our way, in fact we just had some really bad luck when it came to timing of the yellows that really cost us a potential win there.  The competition in Grand-Am is extremely fierce and every team has the potential to win so you really need things to fall your way as well as preform at an extremely high level.  We had the crew and car to win the race but we didn’t make it happen which is frustrating but we’re all working hard to come back stronger!

9) The #24 Audi R8 GRAND-AM has been entered as a factory team, under the name of Audi Sport customer racing. How does it feel being part of this team for the NAEC, and how has the team been put together from the people at Kettler Motor Werks?  

As a driver the best scenario you can have is when you show up for a race and you know you are driving for the best team in the paddock and with Audi Sport Customer Racing I have that.  You realize straight away working with everyone there as well as with Brad Kettler and everyone he has at Kettler Motor Werks what has made them all so successful over the last decade in motorsports. 

10) Will we be seeing you in the Audi Sport customer racing Audi R8 GRAND-AM at Indianapolis for the final NAEC round? 

Not sure if I will be in the car there or not yet.

11) This year you are racing in both ALMS and Grand-Am. Which one is most demanding, and how do they differ with approach for the driver?  

Actually as a driver the two series have become quite similar and are both extremely demanding.  The main difference between the two series is in ALMS I race in the GTC class with Flying Lizard Motorsports and in the class everyone has the same spec Porsche 911 Cup Car and the changes you can make are extremely limited compared to Grand-Am.  This puts a huge emphasis onto the drivers in the car truly becoming even more important as well as a team that really focuses on all the very small details to get absolutely everything out of the car you can.  The difference on speeds as well in ALMS between the prototypes and GT cars are also much greater so that means you tend to spend more time looking in your mirrors and it also makes it a little tougher to judge traffic as often you will look in your mirror and see absolutely no one behind you and then all of a sudden three corners later they’re diving up the inside of you.

12) Following the completion of the NAEC, where else can we expect to see you racing this year? 

Well I will be racing the rest of the season in the American Le Mans Series for Flying Lizard Motorsports.  That is my main focus for the rest of the year and as of now the only thing certain I have on the calendar.  I am still working very hard to get back behind the wheel of an Audi more full time.

13) You have now had a full 2012 season in an Audi with APR, a Daytona 24 Hours victory and a factory drive in the NAEC. Are there any possibilities of seeing you going over to Europe to race one of the Audi R8 LMS ultra cars for a guest drive, and possibly becoming an Audi factory driver in Europe?  

That would be fantastic as I would love to be doing some racing in Europe but as of now my main focus is over here in the U.S.  If I had an opportunity to race some in Europe, especially as a Audi Factory Driver, I would be on the plane there the day I got the call! 

We at the Audi Motorsport Blog thank Dion for taking the time to complete our questions, and we wish him the best of luck for the rest of the 2013 season. Here's to seeing him back in victory lane very soon. 

Dion also thanks his sponsors for their continued support

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