Phil Allaway · Wednesday February 13, 2013
For 22-year old Dion von Moltke, 2013 is a crossroads year. He spent last season developing the new Audi R8 Grand-Am with APR Motorsport. The car was a work in progress for much of the season before coming into its own late in the year. Now, the Audi is ready for primetime, but von Möltke is without a full-time ride.
For the Rolex 24 at Daytona, von Möltke signed on as the fourth driver for Alex Job Racing’s Audi R8 Grand-Am, joining DTM racers Filipe Albuquerque and Edoardo Mortara, along with Oliver Jarvis. After final practice, von Möltke took some time out of his day to sit down with our own Phil Allaway.
Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com: This is the first time that Alex Job Racing has raced an Audi. Is this an absolutely new chassis, or a leased car?
Dion von Moltke: Yes, it’s a brand new car. It was really kind of a last-minute effort. It’s been an amazing job by Audi Sport Customer Racing as well as WeatherTech Racing and Alex Job just to get everything organized in time.
[The team] got the car just before Christmas. The guys worked Christmas Day; they had no days off to get the car ready to show up for the Roar Before the 24 test. I’ve gotta say, for getting [the car] completely built, shipped over from Germany and built again, it was ready to go for the Roar as if it were a year old. It was a brand new car, and everyone’s done just a mega job to get it set, ready, drivable and comfortable for the driver.
Allaway: Got to drive this home for our readers. There were only ten days, not even that, between Christmas and having to leave for the Roar test.
Von Moltke: To ask somebody to come in and work all day Christmas Day is normally a difficult task. But, these guys jumped at the effort. They really want to be successful and I think their past history shows that. With Audi as well as with Alex Job Racing, they both have done very, very well.
Building a race car in ten days for the Roar Before the 24 — we had to be here January 3rd. You have to pack the trailers, get the cars in the trailers and start driving the day before that. You have to make sure everything’s good, and it’s not just the cars, but pit equipment, alignment tools, it’s getting everything in line. It’s a mega undertaking for sure.
Allaway: This is your second season driving Audis. Last year, you were full-time in the No. 51 Audi for APR Motorsport. It was a trying season at times, but ended very well with a second at Lime Rock. How would you describe your 2012?
Von Moltke: I think it was a good development and learning year, not only for the car, but for me as well. In my young career so far, I’ve been able to help develop a few different cars. The first [car I helped develop] was a Volkswagen GTI and this next time was an Audi R8. It was really, really nice for me to be able to work closely with Audi as a manufacturer. You learn things as a driver as to why they’re successful.
Last year was a trying year. It didn’t live up to the expectations of myself, to APR Motorsport and to Audi. We all came in there expecting to do more, and I think you can tell that this year in Daytona, there’s a big push to do better, get better results and have a better process to get to those results. As a driver, I really enjoy the opportunity to work closely with the manufacturer like that and see what makes them successful and be able to translate that to my own career. It’s a good learning experience and hopefully, we can get results for all the hard work this year.
Allaway: How is the R8 to drive?
Von Moltke: It is a beautiful car to drive. It is very responsive and it does everything that you would want it to do. As a driver, when you want to tweak it, you know maybe it’s doing a little of this or that, it’s very responsive to the changes that the Audi engineers and the team throw at it. It’s very comfortable, really fast, and a really great endurance race car.
You can go out there and drive it for 24 hours and you know that it’s going to last and it’s going to be quick. It’s also good for the sprint races as well. It’s ultimately quick. The car does what you need it to do, which is perfect for a driver. I’m not going into the race worried about what my car is going to be doing. It’s reliable, it’s quick and it’s comfortable to drive.
Allaway: In the official press release that the team put out, it identified you as an Audi factory driver. Is that new for this year?
Von Moltke: That’s a bit false. I’m not an Audi factory driver. My teammates (Albuquerque, Jarvis and Mortara) are, but I’m not. Hopefully, that’s the goal, eventually.
Allaway: Is this ultimately going to be a one-off with Alex Job Racing here?
Von Moltke: We don’t really know, and we won’t know until after the race. Ultimately, results are very important to decide that. As of right now, I don’t know what I’ll be doing for the rest of the year, and I don’t know what Alex Job will be doing for the rest of the year. So, hopefully, we’ll get that figured out. Alex [Job] runs a really great team and I love driving for him. It’s been a pleasure to be able to work for him and hopefully, we can continue with the Audi banner as well, but, we’ll see.
Allaway: You did a little ALMS with Alex Job last year and won your class at Sebring, the biggest race in the series. Can you describe the experience of winning at Sebring?
Von Moltke: It was such a special experience. Everyone knows the Sebring 12 Hour. It was only my second Sebring 12 Hour and to be my first race with Alex Job Racing, I had some really great teammates in Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler. We were all very dedicated and very focused, but we were having a good time as well. I always think that chemistry is more important than anything. It’s very organized, which is how Alex likes to run his race team. I think that was a key in getting us into position to have a winning car there. Then, to bring home the win was an incredible experience. The Sebring 12 Hour is one of the biggest races in the United States, and internationally in sports cars. Looking forward to getting back there, hopefully, and continuing; working hard and hopefully getting back to a similar result.
Allaway: You’re a Florida-based driver. Do you get any opportunities to race in Europe?
Von Moltke: It’s definitely something that I’m chasing right now. I have driven some in South Africa, which was one of my favorite races that I’ve ever done. It was at Kyalami, which has got such a history in motorsports.
Allaway: What kind of race was this?
Von Moltke: This was a sprint race. I had a South African teammate a few years ago, a five-time national champion named Hennie Groenewald. I came over and raced in their team in what was pretty much an old Trans-Am car. Those are, I believe, two sprint races over the weekend there. That was really good fun.
For sure, I’d love the opportunity to go to Europe and try the Spa 24 Hours, the [24 Hours of the Nurburgring]. Obviously, Audi is hugely successful in international racing. I’d love to go try a GT3 car over there. But, in all honesty, I’m really happy here. I love racing Grand-Am. The competition is really tight, it’s really close. The Audi guys over here are dedicated and very, very concentrated and focused on being successful here. To help them along in that program and be a part of it has been special.
Allaway: Are you excited about the merger between Grand-Am and ALMS, currently dubbed “The Future?”
Von Moltke: Yeah. I think that it’s going to be very difficult initially for a lot of teams and a lot of drivers. But, the people that are the ones that make it through and continue are going to prosper. Ultimately, it is great for sports car racing. I hope the fans are as excited as I am because I can see a great future with it. I see a lot of great racing.
What it did for IndyCar, I think they did a good job [bringing Champ Car and the IRL together]. Grand-Am can take what they did and improve upon it and make it even better. Really, we’re all here to put on a show for the fans. That has to be the key — to make sure that the show is competitive, exciting and fan friendly. Both sides (Grand-Am and ALMS) have done a good job at making it fan friendly, and I think it will be key for them to continue that for the future.
Allaway: Do you have any other suggestions for the merged series?
Von Moltke: Ultimately, I think that a lot of drivers would like to see the GT3-spec cars come over and be a part of our series so that the teams could go and race Daytona 24 Hours, Sebring 12 Hours, the [24 Hours of the Nurburgring], Spa, Bathurst, all with one car. I think that it would be a great progression if it were to happen.
The talks with Daytona Prototypes possibly being at Le Mans are really exciting. I have not been to Le Mans, personally. It’s a big goal of mine. It would be great to see those cars over there racing. I think the fans would learn to love it.
Allaway: There are substantial differences between the R8 Grand-Am that you’re running this weekend and the GT3-spec Audi R8. Can you talk about them?
Von Moltke: To make [the R8] into Grand-Am spec, it’s got no ABS, no traction control, it’s got quite a bit less downforce, runs different tires, and a restrictor in the engine. This is because the V10 engine in the street car is such a great engine that they have to pull it back to [create] an even playing field.
That was probably the initial part of how much we had to change the car and why we struggled a little bit at the beginning of last season. At the end of the year, we finally figured it out. We learned how to make it work and use more mechanical grip in the car. I think that it’s a great step for everyone to learn together on what the U.S. side of racing is about, because it is really different here as compared to Europe.
A lot of cars, like when Porsche came here, they struggled. A lot of the European manufacturers have to go through the first year learning. Luckily, we have a great group of guys that figured it out.
Allaway: Have you actually driven the Euro-spec R8?
Von Moltke: I have not. I definitely want to and I hope to be driving it at some point this year or next year, but I have not driven the GT3-spec car.
Allaway: Away from racing, what do you do in your spare time?
Von Moltke: I’m really big into training. In the off-season, I went with my friend, Ricky Taylor, to Formula Medicine in Italy, which was a very intensive full week of training. [Editor’s Note: this four minute video can give you an idea of what Formula Medicine is like].
A lot of Formula One drivers, DTM drivers, the best drivers in the world go there to train mentally, physically. You learn about nutrition as well. Everything you do there, every little thing, you’re compared against the best drivers in the world. They’ll say, “Bruno Spengler did this. See if you can beat him.” [Writer’s Note: Spengler, a Canadian racer, is the reigning DTM Champion.]
That competition aspect is really fun. I enjoy playing tennis, any type of sports, physical activity, anything adventurous. I’m always out there trying to do something different.
Allaway: With the training, is it like circuit training (Ex: CrossFit, Insanity, etc.)?
Von Moltke: They do a lot of different things. Usually, we’ll have three anaerobic threshold tests, we’ll have a VO2 max test, and probably the toughest workout was a European-style CrossFit. This was a number of things back-to-back, as fast as you could do them. It included a 7.8 kilometer cycle, 3.9 kilometer run, 150 body weight squats, 100 push-ups and 50 horizontal pull-ups, as fast as you can. I think I averaged 180 beats per minute as a heart rate for 43 minutes. So, they like to torture you a little bit and laugh at you while you’re hurting, but you really come out stronger physically and mentally.
Allaway: 43 minutes? Wow.
Ricky and I are very competitive with each other, but we’re also friends, so we push each other to do it. It’s a good time. Formula Medicine is a great program. It’s really great stuff and I think you get an advantage for sure.
Allaway: Just gotta ask, who won that? You or Ricky?
Von Moltke: I believe Ricky won that one, but, in all honesty, I had a lot more workouts the days before he did it. He was a little bit fresher. Next year, we’re going to have to have a new competition.
Allaway: I interviewed Ricky at Lime Rock and he mentioned training, but nothing along the lines of Formula Medicine.
Von Moltke: If you go to Ricky and tell him that Dion told you about Formula Medicine, he might laugh. We have some clips on YouTube that he posted where we talk about what we did with workouts and some of the mental training that we do. I think that the mental training is the key. Reaction time, as well as hand-eye coordination. The biggest things in sports are the mental side.
Once the 24 Hours of Daytona race got underway, the No. 24 Audi was one of the strongest teams in the GT class, overcoming a three-minute penalty due to an improper wave around to challenge for the class win. A fuel conversation strategy put the team in the lead with minutes to go and only ounces of fuel remaining. However, von Möltke’s teammate Albuquerque was able to make his fuel last while holding off APR Motorsport’s No. 52 Audi to take the class victory.
Afterwards, von Moltke had trouble simply composing himself — overcome with joy.
“I can’t even put it into words right now,” von Moltke said in Victory Lane. “There have been so many great drivers and teams that have come here and tried to win this race and weren’t able to do it, and I have… it’s great. We had a great team with Alex Job Racing and the drivers. It came down to everyone doing their jobs. And we did. Two hours ago, we thought we were out. Felipe got in the car and put in one of the most amazing drives I have ever witnessed. To pull it off is amazing!”
Plans for the remainder of 2013 are still up in the air. However, von Möltke does plan to return to Sebring to defend his GTC-class win from 2012.
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