Friday, September 14, 2012

Dion von Moltke Interview - Driver of the APR Audi R8 GRAND-AM


By Johan Laubscher

It is always special for motorsport fans to support drivers from their own country in international motorsport. Even more so when one of those drivers is part of one of your favourite teams and manufactures. For South African Audi and general motorsport fans alike, Dion von Moltke is proudly flying the South African flag on the international scene. It was a very proud sight when the first images of the APR Audi R8 GRAND-AM livery emerged with the car wearing the colours of South African Airways on the rear wing.

Dion and Dr Jim Norman 
Dion has had a very busy season during 2012. The fulltime university student has been competing in the Rolex Grand-Am series with APR Motorsport. The team is armed with the new Audi R8 GRAND-AM driven by Dion and Dr Jim Norman. It has been a season of ups and downs for the team as they continue to develop the new car. Dion recently took the chance to head home to South Africa during a mid-season break. One of our writers/admins who lives in South Africa unfortunately did not get a chance to meet up with Dion, but arrangements were made to get in touch for a short interview with the young driver from the Rainbow Nation.

Interview with Dion von Moltke

AM (Audi Motorsport blog)
DM (Dion von Moltke)

AM: A quick rundown about yourself: who is Dion von Moltke in one paragraph?

DM: I am a highly active, and adventurous person. I absolutely love being outside in nature, that's a big reason why I love going home to South Africa so much! For me being home out in the bush is my favorite place in the world to be (Outside of being in our PR Newswire / / South African Airways APR Audi R8 that is!) I also absolutely love all sports, I always have them on the t.v. and anytime I can take a break from my training to go out and play a sport, especially tennis, I go for it!

AM: How does it feel racing under the South African flag?

DM: For me it's a very special thing. Although I was born here in the States and have been racing here for me South Africa is still home. Almost all my family still lives there and the second I step off the plane in Johannesburg I know in my heart that I am home. We are a very passionate and hard working nation and I try to bring those ideals into all areas of my life and especially my racing.

I also love introducing South Africa to people who do not know much about our country. In fact this year I am leading a tour to South Africa! Together with South African Airways and Flysaavacations we will be taking close to 20 people for an adventure tour of South Africa that will include 4 days in Johannesburg where we will also go watch some local racing at the Zwatkops track. Then we will spend 3 days in Cape Town and then 3 days in the Kruger National Park at Lion Sands game lodge, I can not wait!

AM: How has it been for you balancing being a full time student and a full time driver in a top class series such as Grand-Am?

DM: It is definitely a very difficult task but a challenge I enjoy. I know how important a good education is in life especially when you are representing multi million dollar companies. I have had to learn very quickly how to manage my time efficiently, well I should say I am still actually learning that part haha. I have to take Online classes at Florida International University which makes it a little harder because you end up having to teach yourself a lot of the material which is especially hard for the math classes!

AM: What types of race cars/categories have you competed in before driving the Audi R8?

DM: I started my career in Go-Karts when I was 14, I raced in many different national championships and even went to two World Championships during my three years of racing in karting. From there I decided I would make the move up to cars so I went to the Skip Barber Racing School which is where I really learnt about driving proper race cars. After a year of racing there I decided I wanted to start racing in Sports Cars, so my Dad and I decided while watching a Koni Challenge race in the stands, that is where I needed to be racing. I joined APR Motorsport for the first time to race their Volkswagen Golf GTI in the Koni Challenge in 2008. I raced with APR Motorsport there for two years and I was able to get the teams and my first professional wins!

From there I moved into the Grand-Am Rolex Series in the Daytona Prototype class with Doran Racing. After one year of racing in Grand-Am's top class I left to race a Porsche GT3 cup car last year for TRG in the American Le Mans Series. Last December I heard about APR's plans to run an APR Audi R8 Grand-Am and I knew right away I wanted to be apart of that program!

AM: Ahead of the final Grand Am round, what is your take on the 2012 season so far, a quick summary?

DM: The 2012 season has been a year of development. The work from everyone at Audi Customer Racing and APR Motorsport has been amazing, we have come such a long way since Daytona. While we still have yet to have the results we are looking for we are pushing as hard as we can right up until this last race is over so that we can be in the best position possible to hopefully end this season of strong!

AM: How would you describe the APR family, how it functions, and how it feels to be part of it?

DM: I think family is the best word to describe it. My teammate Jim has been a mentor to me, he really wants to see me succeed and to have someone like him giving me advice has been really special this year. We all know how hard each of us is working and how bad we all want to win and when you go through rough times or have a rough weekend that is what helps get you straight back up and straight back to work!

AM: What are your impressions of the R8 Grand-Am and have you had the opportunity to drive a GT3 specification R8 LMS as of yet?

DM: At Laguna Seca our R8 Grand-Am really came to life, this car has a ton of potential and we are just starting to uncover it! Every time we go to a track it is the first time ever that our car has been on that track, so every weekend has been a massive learning curve. Grand-Am has been working with us really well throughout the season and we are getting very close to challenging the top teams in Grand-Am. We are racing against cars that have purposed built tube framed race chassis, while our Audi R8 actually has the street car chassis, in fact is built on the same line that the street car R8's are! That just shows you how well built this car is!

I have not driven the R8 LMS yet but I hope to change that sometime in the near future!

AM: How has the support been from Audi’s customer racing department towards customer teams such as APR?

DM: Audi Customer Racing comes to every single race to support us and that partnership is vital to our success. They are the ones that fight to get our car faster by the rules and they also listen to what we have to say about the car and take that information back to Germany to help continue developing our car.

AM: What was it like racing alongside some factory Audi drivers? Firstly with Pirro at Daytona and later with Stippler and Basseng at Watkins Glen?

DM: It was an amazing experience, Emanuele Pirro is one of the biggest names in motorsport and Stippler and Basseng are two drivers that are completely on top of their game and are some of the best drivers in the world. Emanuele is one of the nicest guys in the world, having him as a teammate really helped guide our program in the right way back in Daytona. He is a very calm and calculated driver in the car and in the meetings but away from it he is a fun and energetic guy; I am lucky to call him a friend now.

Frank Stippler and Mark Basseng were amazing to work with. They get everything out of the car they drive and also have immense experience so to be able to go toe to toe with them on the track was a great learning experience.

AM: In the discussions with Stippler and Basseng, which major differences did they mention between the normal R8 LMS and the R8 GRAND-AM?

DM: The R8 LMS and the R8 Grand-Am are actually immensely different cars. The Grand-Am car has a smaller front splitter, no rear diffuser, a smaller rear wing, the wing is closer to the rear of the body, no traction control, no abs, and only RWD. With all of that taken away on the Grand-Am it amounts to around 70% less downforce! So the cars drive very differently and puts more emphasis on mechanical grip over the aero grip.

AM: For South Africans the top Audis competing in SA are the Audi S4 race cars in the Production Car series. You have driven a car very similar to this before. You once raced the APR Audi S4 during 2010. What does the APR S4 feel like versus the Audi R8 Grand AM?

DM: The production based cars are very different cars than the GT based R8. Everything is just a little closer to stock in the production based S4's so it feels a little more sloppy, it rolls a little more in the corners, it dances around a little more on braking which makes them actually very difficult to drive. The S4 is also all wheel drive, so the driving style for a fast lap is very similar to how you drive a front wheel drive car, and if it rains watch out because the S4 will be flying!

AM: You have already driven in a large variety of cars and series, what are your dreams and goals moving forward with your career?

DM: I want to race and win at Le Mans. I have developed a very special relationship with Audi this year and I hope to be able to achieve my dreams and have a long term career with them.

AM: The Grand-Am and the ALMS have recently announced the merger for 2014. What are you views on the Grand Am and ALMS merger and the future of American Sports Car Racing?

DM: This news is absolutely fantastic!! It will be a great thing for our sport. While there are still a lot of unknowns about what the future will really hold and there is still a lot of work to be done, I could not be more excited. It will be great for the fans, the drivers and the teams 2014 will be a very interesting year.

We thank Dion for taking the time to complete these questions for Audi Motorsport Blog. We wish Dion and APR the best for the remaining Grand-Am round at Lime Rock.

More information:

Dion also thanks his sponsors for their continued support

We have included a selection of videos and photos of Dion in the Audi below:

Photo credits: APR Motorsport, Vickie Miller and Dion von Molkte.