Boullier: Joining McLaren “a rare and great opportunity”

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McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has spoken for the first time about his decision to join the team ahead of the new season, calling it “a rare and great opportunity.”

The Frenchman was confirmed as having joined the team at the end of January after leaving Lotus, with whom he had spent four years. He had been the driving force behind the signing of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean’s development. However, with many financial problems blighting Lotus’ best efforts in 2013 and causing a great media stir, Boullier’s job became increasingly difficult, although he was not willing to talk about it in an interview with the official Formula 1 website.

“I will not talk about that now,” he said. “There is nothing to be said right now. Or let’s put it this way: it was a rare and great opportunity to join a prestigious team like McLaren. I am delighted and I feel privileged having been contacted.

“It was the team that I was watching when I was a kid – the era of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. My decision to join McLaren was made before I could even finish saying McLaren!”

McLaren has undergone a sizeable reshuffle in the past few months following the team’s worst season since 1980. Mexican driver Sergio Perez was dropped after just one season in favour of Danish youngster Kevin Magnussen, whilst Ron Dennis has returned to the role of CEO, in turn displacing Martin Whitmarsh (the designated team principal in 2013). Now though, Boullier is working in that role, albeit under the title of ‘racing director’.

“We have discussed that with Ron: the title ‘team principal’ is heritage – something of the past,” the Frenchman explained. “It was the team founder or the team owner. The idea is more to split tasks between Jonathan Neale and myself. IT, legal and finance is under Jonathan’s scope, racing and engineering under mine.

“So at the track I am acting one hundred percent as the team principal.”

Where does this leave Martin Whitmarsh? Interestingly, he hasn’t been mentioned by McLaren in any of the official communications, nor has he been present for any of the tests. Therefore, it appears to be merely a matter of time until his departure is formally confirmed by the team.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

Audi Sport
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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”