Saturday, December 21, 2013

Q&A: Interview with Christopher Mies - Audi GT factory driver

By Tarek Ramchani

Christopher Mies had a busy and very strong 2013 season, racing for different Audi Sport customer racing teams in different series and endurance events in Europe and beyond.From the Blancpain Endurance Series with Belgian Audi Club Team WRT to the ADAC GT Masters with Prosperia C.Abt Racing and appearances in selected endurance events, as well as testing the GTD spec Audi R8 LMS in America.

We were pleased to have an interview with Christopher Mies. A very interesting Q/A about his debut with the Audi brand in GT racing, the 2013 season and his expectations for 2014.

You can follow Christopher Mies on Facebook here, his Twitter account here and his official website here.

1) Please tell us how it all started for you with Audi in GT racing.

I had a very good year in Motorsport in 2008 and the Audi project just started 2009. So I was invited by Phoenix Racing for a test and it worked out. You know, at this stage racing was just a hobby for me and I was just happy to drive a racecar. I couldn't tell the engineer about the car or the handling, I just drove as fast as I could.

2) You have recently been at Sebring and Daytona for the TUSC test days. What are the differences between the FIA GT3 R8 LMS ultra and the IMSA GTD R8 LMS?

To make it not too long the GTD car has less Aero, no ABS or TC. I'm glad we will get some side windows now, before they were forbidden. Open your windows on a motorway when you are as fast as you can. It's so horrible loud. We are going around 300 kp/h at Daytona, I couldn't hear the engine anymore. The last difference is that the teams can change many parts like dampers, antirollbars, brakes and so on. So not every Audi has the same configuration.

3) How does the driving experience differ between the FIA GT3 R8 LMS ultra and the IMSA GTD R8 LMS?

Our Ultra car is much quicker in the corners and we can brake much later while we can go on power earlier. The big advantage of the GTD R8 is the topspeed. Less Aero makes a better drag and that means a better topspeed. So the GTD car is around 20 to 25 kp/h quicker on the straight. Both are fun and especially the GTD car is a new challenge. I like both but if you want to push really hard, if you want to give 110% of your knowledge then the R8 Ultra is easier to handle.

4) You had a busy year with Audi during 2013. Between the Blancpain Endurance Series and the ADAC GT Masters, which one is the most demanding?

It's hard to compare. The Blancpain is a 3 hour race with 3 drivers on fantastic tracks around europe and we have more than 50 cars every race. That's so fantastic. But, and this is the worst part on the Blancpain series, a lot of Gentleman which makes life not easy. Sometimes they are in a quicker car due to a better BoP. They block you before or in the corners and pull away on the straight. That's really frustrating sometimes and I'm happy that WRT always gave me a perfect car to push. I qualified 3rd in Silverstone which is the best Qualifying result for an Audi in the Blancpain ever and it could be the Pole Position but unfortunately I had traffic. But that's life and it's the same for everybody.

The GTM (GT Masters) is a sprint race for me, I shared my car with Rene and each of us were 'just' 30 minutes in the car. But to be honest this is more exhausting. 22 cars, 8 of them fight for the Championship. That's close and tough racing with lot of contacts. Unfortunately the BoP was not that good in the beginning - it changed but for some others as well. The Mercedes and especially the Ford and Corvette were much too strong, I hope this will change for 2014. All in all I enjoyed both series, they are both fantastic and I had the best teams I could imagine.

5) What are your targets for the upcoming 2014 season?

To win races and at least a Championship. Last year I won the Blancpain with WRT and Stephane/Christopher. It felt fantastic and I want to have this feeling back. This year we were unable to win the Blancpain, the BoP was too bad. We were missing 2 seconds minimum at Spa 24h compared to Mercedes, BMW and Porsche. You can't win a Championship if you are that slow by BoP, you just win a Championship if everything fits perfect.

You know, for me René and I were the best driver line-up in GTM. We had really the slowest car in the beginning but we won the first race. Coming from P15! Why? The team did an outstanding job after qualifying and René and I just did our best. There are some guys I know from early days and now they are in a Mercedes or Ford for example. Some years ago I was quicker on the same car, today I'm 5 tenth of Qualifying compared to them. That means that something is wrong and it clearly shows that we have to work very hard on the BoP theme. Or just have a look on Corvette Qualifying at Nürburgring. Jeroen Bleekemolen has never been in the car before, has never tested a new set of tyre before Qualifying and was 7 tenth quicker than Keilwitz who drives the car since a couple of years. It clearly showed the performance of the car when a professional is on! So for 2014 let's hope for a better BoP and I'm sure we are back in a title fight!

6) Which race track is your favourite?

One is for sure Bathurst. The fascination, going up the Mountain, going down after with a lot of quick corners. Fantastic! No place for mistakes, there are walls beside the track
For sure the Nordschleife is my No.1. At no track I have more mileage and no track I know better than this. It's a fascinating track in a wonderful area. I hope to race there some more years.

7) You are a keen motorcycle rider, have you ever considered to compete in superbike racing?

Nooo I'm far off. I just do it because I like to relax. And on my Ducati, it's just perfect. No Navigation, no passenger, no radio, no mobile - just driving. I love to be on the Nürburgring with my bike, to hear the 2 cylinder going up to 13.000 rpm! It sounds like music. But I'm sure I'm far off a professional superbike racer. At least it's just fun for me.

8) What are your dreams for the future within your motor racing career?

If you would ask me that a couple of years ago I would answer going to DTM. But today it's LMP1! To go to LeMans would be a dream! I just have seen the new R18. I fall in love immediately! What a dream car. So wish me luck, I hope to be there soon.

Photo credit: Christopher Mies