November 1993: Audi Sport decides to appoint a new boss for the division and a determined Wolfgang Ullrich is chosen to take charge of the motorsport division of the German manufacturer.
December 2017: Dr Ullrich, aged 67 decided to retire from his position, leaving behind a 24 year-long legacy which cannot be replicated.
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich is one of the most iconic names in Sportscar Racing history and as he retires from his position as the head of Audi Sport, we take a look at incomparable success that he and Audi has achieved together.
Firstly, we begin with the highlight of his career; his wins at the “24 Hours Of Le Mans”.
Some are successful enough to win the ‘greatest motor race in the world’ once or maybe even twice. Then come those who win it thrice or even four times. In that sense, Dr Ullrich is in a league of his own, leading Audi to 13 wins at the Circuit De La Sarthe during his time as the boss while facing direct competition from the mighty manufacturers in Peugeot, Bentley, Porsche and Toyota.
When I met Dr Ullrich recently at the Hong Kong ePrix, I asked him how his team was able to win the “24 Hours Of Le Mans” over and over again for thirteen times and in his extremely humble tone, he replied saying that it was all as a result of having the right people at the right time. He continued, saying that the trust and belief that all the members of the team had between themselves gave them the edge and so, they were able to scale the tallest of mountains of the industry. Had each member of the team not supported each other so much and performed their best, Audi would not have achieved anything close to what they have today.
Dr Ullrich is a true leader, inspiring his team to move towards success instead of bossing around. Every so often, he would be seen cracking jokes in the garage and motivating every member of the crew, be it a driver or an engineer and giving opportunities to new talent, creating a true sense of a team. That seems to be the reason why people stayed loyal to Audi, as they wouldn’t be able to get the same sense of teamwork anywhere else. Together, the team focused a lot on innovation and improving themselves; they were the first team to run a diesel powered car at Le Mans, with the R18 winning at Le Mans in its very first attempt.
Apart from the Le Mans wins, Dr Ullrich also led Audi Sport to two championships in the Italian Touring Championship and several Drivers’ World Titles in the DTM. Under his leadership, Audi Sport also took wins in prestigious races such as the 24 Hours Of Daytona, the 24 Hours Of Spa, the 24 Hours Of Nurburgring and also the 12 Hours Of Sebring. A true master of endurance racing.
Before I met Dr Ullrich, I had read and heard a lot about him; people said that he always used to have his sights set on the future while doing well in the present. I experienced this in person at the Hong Kong ePrix, which was his final race weekend as the head of Audi Sport before retiring. Even then, he was talking about the upcoming Formula E season with a desire to win it and already had plans set for what the team was going to do to finish the season as World Champions.
His determination has always fascinated me and I have seen a similar resolve in very few other team leaders. Now, that he has retired from his post as the head of Audi Sport, I would like to congratulate him on his achievements, thank him for everything that he has given to the world of racing and wish him well for the future!
Danke Dr Ullrich!