Award-winning driver Allan McNish offers insight on how Audi e-tron revolutionises electric mobility and its commitment on and off the track.

Credits: Lynn Tan

As the first German automobile manufacturer on the Formula E grid, the Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler team clinched the Formula E Team’s Championship in the 2017/2018 season. This title win in its first year bears testimony to Audi’s commitment to electric mobility, along with the latest developments on the Audi e-tron front. These include the first-ever all-electric e-tron SUV, and the fully-functional Audi e-tron Vision Gran Turismo prototype that went from virtual world to reality, both of which made their debuts in Singapore at the recent Audi Brand Experience Singapore 2018.

Audi will continue its Formula E presence in the 2018/2019 season, with drivers Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi behind the wheel of the new Audi e-tron FE05. Compared to its predecessor—the FE04 race car—the FE05 has a more powerful battery, a higher power output, improved efficiency and double the range, negating the need for a mid-race car swap in compliance with the new regulations. 

And who better to take the lead in Audi’s motorsport endeavours than sports car legend and former Formula One driver, Allan McNish. The three-time Le Mans winner was appointed by the Audi Group in 2015 to coordinate all its motorsport activities, including their Formula E racing commitment. McNish subsequently assumed the role of team principal of the Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler Formula E team ahead of its official entry in the 2017/2018 season.

With 37 years’ experience in motorsport in various capacities, McNish shares the connection between Audi race cars and road cars, and Audi’s electrification strategy.

The Formula E made its first appearance in Singapore at the recent Audi Brand Experience in October.

How do you compare being behind the wheel versus being the man behind the team?

As a driver, you look through your helmet visor and you can only see your car, your crew and how you can win. It is quite a narrow view. As team principal, I have to look through both the driver’s helmet visor and see the wider view managing their needs along with the needs of the team, which do not always align.
It sounds crazy, but what you do not always realise or appreciate as a driver, which I now do as team principal, the effort behind the scenes that goes on at home in Neuburg to make sure the performance of the new e-tron FE05 is that of a “winner” and how important the driver is in that eco-system.

What was the significance of Audi’s entry into Formula E in the 2017/2018 season, both to Audi and to e-mobility?

As ever, Audi likes to lead both on and off track and the decision to go into Formula E and e-mobility in general was clear and decisive. It was important for us to be at the heart of the racing series. Now that BMW, Porsche and Mercedes are joining us, it is a nice confirmation that we were ahead of the game.

The new e-tron, Audi's first-ever all-electric SUV made its debut in Singapore, after the launch just over a month ago.

What are some of the lessons and experiences that Audi has gained from developing the Audi e-tron FE04 and FE05 for Formula E that can be applied to Audi e-tron road cars?

Motorsport is in Audi’s DNA, and you can see and feel that when you drive the road cars. Audi Sport is at the forefront of that in terms of developing winning technologies such as FSI direct injection, TDI and ULTRA lightweight technology among others.

The name “e-tron” hit the track in 2012 and won Le Mans and the World Championship that year, so we have been working on electrification for many years, developing our skills in areas such as weight distribution, battery and system cooling, recuperation, boosting and software development from then until now. We have been using all our experience over the years to ensure that we can lead on the track and on the road.

Audi goes into Season Five as Team’s Champions but the goal is to add the Driver’s title to that.

The 2018/2019 season of Formula E will commence on 15 December 2018 in Riyadh. What are your expectations for the team, especially after clinching the Team’s Championship in the debut season?

I think this season will be very difficult to predict. We have big changes in the car and regulations with a very distinctive car design, no more car swaps, double the battery energy and 25 per cent more maximum power, plus a new sporting idea that will allow increased power boost for the drivers.

We go into Season Five as Team’s Champions but the goal is to add the Driver’s title to that. However, we are very aware we will need to be at our very best to beat the strong competition from the other 10 teams and manufacturers.

 

Do you see electrification as the future of motorsport and motoring?

It is such an exciting time right now and even in the last decade, the whole industry has changed so much. I am sure there will be new technical developments that will change it again in the future.

Right now, the focus is on developing our electric racing and road cars, but we are not forgetting our internal combustion cars as that is still an important part of our future. We have two legs in our factory racing programmes, electric in Formula E and internal combustion in DTM, as well as our customer racing programmes with our R8 GT3, R8 GT4 and RS3 TCR cars.

Audi recently launched its first all-electric series production model, the Audi e-tron SUV. What is Audi’s strategy towards increasing more electric models in its line-up?

We are early in the game and ahead of some of our main competitors, and will continue to add new electric cars quickly into the line-up to offer customers various options depending on their driving desires with the Audi e-tron Sportback joining in 2019 and 12 fully electric vehicles by 2025. I have my e-tron on order.

What do you consider the biggest challenges that e-mobility needs to overcome before its widespread adoption?

I think the general acceptance has changed a lot over the last few years, but I always feel that personal experience is the game changer. When more people experience for themselves the latest developments in e-mobility, such as incredible car performance, over 400km range, 150kW 30-minute fast charging, growing charging network, personal car and life connectivity, acceptance will change and make e-mobility mainstream.

	
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            [sub_description] => Treat yourself—have a break from the daily grind with these foodie recommendations from Class 95FM DJ and Audi Brand Ambassador Yasminne Cheng. You’ll feel like you’ve taken a mini-vacation in New Zealand, France, Japan and the Mediterranean. 
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            [sub_description] => From tropical Havana and Hoi An to buzzing Hong Kong, singer-songwriter and Audi Brand Ambassador Dick Lee shines a spotlight on his three most recent vacation hotspots. Interview by Siti Rohani.


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            [sub_description] => It’s the time for festive celebrations with family and friends over delicious food. Class 95FM DJ and Audi Brand Ambassador Yasminne Cheng recommends three different places to make merry, from the very posh to the oh-so-casual. Whichever you decide, you’ll be assured of a tasty meal and perfect ambience. Interview by Siti Rohani.
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            [sub_description] => The ‘Golden Steering Wheel’ is one of the most coveted automotive awards in Europe. The new Audi Q5 has distinguished itself by winning the ‘Large SUV’ category. Experience this benchmark premium SUV at Audi Centre Singapore at 281 Alexandra Road.
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