Similar to the Audi R8 LMS vehicle that has run in several European sport car championships in the past three seasons (inspiring the Audi R8 GT road car), the Grand-Am version of the German luxury supercar differs in several aspects. Complying the vehicle with the Rolex Sports Car Series GT category, the Audi R8 race car underwent many subtle changes. Tighter bodywork constraints meant the front splitter could only extend 35 millimeters (1.38 inches) and the rear spoiler could only be 152 millimeters (5.98 inches) wide. Along with a flat vehicle underbody and a higher minimum ride height, Audi Sport accounted that around 70-80 percent of the aerodynamic grip of the Audi R8 LMS has been lost in configuring the supercar to Grand-Am specifications.
Besides a new aerodynamic profile, the Audi R8 Grand-Am car needed to adjust to the Rolex Sport Car GT category’s spec Continental tire compound. During December testing at the Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course, the Audi R8 Grand-Am sailed around the race course for two days completing 600 miles partially to acquaint themselves to the new racing rubber. The Audi R8 LMS race car’s anti-lock braking and traction control programs have been deactivated for the Grand-Am.
Still an unmistakable Audi supercar, the R8 Grand-Am will be propelled through competition by the race-prepped 5.2 liter FSI V-10 powerplant. Horsepower from the R8 Grand-Am’s V-10 engine is expected within the 450 to 500 range restricted in efforts to put the vehicle on an equal playing field with other GT category sports cars.
Through a customer-supported racing effort, Audi has the full intent that entrance into the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona will be the latest chapter for what has been a prosperous existence on North American race tracks. Participating in the 1988 SCCA Trans-Am Series, a pair of Audi 200 turbocharged quattro sedans made waste of the competition winning 8 of 13 races in its maiden season. So intimidating, the SCCA changed its rulebook the following year to effectively outlaw the all-wheel drive Audi 200 from future involvement. Of course, Audi’s more recent claim to fame has been with their exceptionally prepared prototype cars. Between variants of the R8 race car, R10, R15 and now the R18, the Audi Sport Team Joest organization has steamrolled the competition in the United States. Winning nine 12 Hours of Sebring as well as the nine consecutive Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, Audi’s brand recognition in North America has enjoyed equal success in a competitive luxury car sales environment.
For the very first event, the Oryx Racing car will feature Humaid Al Masaood, Saeed Al Mehairi and Steven Kane as the planned drivers behind the wheel over the 24-hour run. APR Motorsport will run the Rolex 24 at Daytona with a driver line-up including Ian Baas, Nelson, Canache, Jim Norman, Dion von Moltke and veteran Audi Sport prototype driver Emanuele Pirro. APR Motorsport had said their Audi R8 Grand-Am arrived just two days before Christmas. As the team prepares for their inaugural race with the new R8 Grand-Am car at Daytona, several members of the APR Motorsport organization is confident on the race car’s braking and driveability. The race team is also ready to embrace the new vehicle knowing there is potential in the Audi R8 Grand-Am remaining untapped. Being campaigned as a customer program, the Audi R8 Grand-Am has and will continue to receive racing support from Audi Sport.
At the 2012 Rolex 24 of Daytona, the next page for Audi will take place over the course of a single day.
Information and photo source: Audi AG