A race that consisted of some cars stretching across 2,700 miles, the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona was again a stressful run that tested the limits of machinery and people. In the GT class for the Grand Am Rolex Series opener, a field of 44 cars represented 8 unique vehicles. The 50th anniversary event at the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway featured the first presence of the new Audi customer race car, the R8 Grand-Am. Like every entrant into the 24-hour race, a pair of 2012 Audi R8 Grand-Am cars (fielded by the #51 APR Motorsport team and the #74 Oryx Racing group) was given a baptism by fire against the established BMW M3, Porsche GT3 and the Mazda RX-8 vehicles.
Oryx Racing (Humaid Al Masaood, Saeed Al Mehairi and Steven Kane)- Finished 32nd in GT Class, 45th Overall
The Oryx Racing Audi R8 started 15th in the GT class, 27th in the overall Rolex 24 at Daytona running order. The Oryx Racing supported #74 Audi R8 Grand-Am car crept up to 21st in the race in the early but quickly in encountered on-track issues.
Driven by Steven Kane at this point of the event, the Oryx Racing car limped with a cut left rear tire until stopping low on the race track. Fortunately for the #74 car, the car lost pace close to the pit lane within turn 12 (known during stock car races as the Daytona oval’s turn 3-4 complex). An extended service from the after the tire change allowed the #74 Audi R8 Grand-Am to rejoin the event. Drawing a full course yellow on the Daytona International Speedway, safety crews administered a quick recovery of the Oryx Racing car. The Audi R8 Grand-Am also encountered its first mechanical hiccup in racing competition with a clutch problem. The Audi R8 Grand-Am car was repaired in the garage area, in a relatively quick time, returning to the Rolex 24 at Daytona event but ran several laps down. By the early evening, the #74 Audi R8 Grand-Am then found itself in the turn 8 through 11 bus stop chicane’s retaining barrier. For the second time, the Oryx Racing car drew a full course yellow.
APR Motorsport (Dion von Moltke, Emanuele Pirro Ian Baas, Jim Norman, Nelson Canache)- Finished 31st in GT Class, 44th Overall
The APR Motorsport Audi R8 Grand-Am finished 15 laps ahead of the Oryx Racing car but only one position ahead. Similar to the Oryx Racing Audi R8, the APR Motorsport vehicle but an off-course issue at the bus stop section of the Daytona road course. Sliding off the track within the closing 15 minutes of the event, the APR Motorsports car almost affected the outcome of the entire race if a full course caution was required to move the stopped Audi R8. In the case of the #51 car, the double-yellow flag was spared as the Audi R8 Grand-Am was able to rejoin the sports car event. Despite a five-car driving team that consisted of Audi Sport’s veteran prototype driver Emanuele Pirro, the APR Motorsport group also faced a challenging entrance into the Grand Am Rolex Series’ GT category.
Though neither the #51 APR Motorsport nor the #74 Oryx Racing achieved great contention in the GT category, the resilience characterized with the Four-Ring badge shined through for the striking new R8 Grand-Am racers. Despite eventful 24-hour runs, both Audi R8 Grand-Am race cars were classified running at the checkered flag in its debut.
With the Rolex 24 at Daytona completed, the Audi R8 Grand-Am car is positioned for a full 2012 Grand Am Rolex Series season that will resume in two months time at Barber Motorsports Park.
Information source: Audi AG, Grand Am
Photo source: Audi AG