The merger of the American Le Mans Series and the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series is certain to increase the overall profile of sports car racing in the United States. Closing in on the 2014 season opener at Daytona, the Tudor United SportsCar Championship is rapidly formulating for its first championship tour.
A preliminary list has already been revealing a four-class series. The Ford EcoBoost/Riley, Mazda diesel and the Aston Martin V12 Vantage race cars are among 69 potential overall entries for the 24-hour race in Florida this upcoming year. The defending victor of the Rolex 24 at Daytona’s GT class, the Audi R8 will be part of the all-new sports car racing series with a massive presence.
With five entries planned to compete in a full 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship schedule, Audi has four organizations campaigning race-ready R8 supercars. Calling their race car the Audi R8 LMS, squad’s vehicle appears to be the same as the R8 Grand-Am. A newcomer to Audi’s GT efforts, Flying Lizard Motorsports switches from being a long-time Porsche supporter to an organization wielding two R8 LMS race cars for 2014. Fall-Line Motorsports, GMG Racing and Paul Miller Racing are committed to single-car entries for the upcoming season. Notable absences from the list of Audi R8 LMS race cars is the APR Motorsports team and the reigning winners of the GT class at Daytona Alex Job Racing. Alex Job Racing will only be racing a Porsche GT America (based on the new 911 platform).
Operating a strong squad in the GT Daytona category, Audi will not have any prototype class involvement in the Tudor United SportsCar Championship for 2014. Last year, there was buzz Audi briefly considered building an engine to power Grand Am Daytona Prototype-style machines only for those plans to be ultimately cancelled. The super high-tech Audi R18 e-tron quattro will not be part of the 2014 United SportsCar Championship. Differing specifications between the United SportsCar Championship’s prototype category and the top-class of the FIA World Endurance Championship, where the R18 e-tron quattro runs, will be the reason for absence for the Audi prototype race team at Sebring or the Petit Le Mans.
In addition to the R8 LMS cars racing in the Tudor United Sportscar Championship. more news for the 2014 plans of Audi motorsports’ endeavours should be coming up soon.
Information and photo source: Audi AG, IMSA
If Audi has taught observers and fans one thing when comes to their approach in motorsports, know that the company is never keen about long waits for success. Last year, Audi made its debut in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series’ GT category with two customer-fielded R8 supercars. Recording an overall finishing position of 44th and 45th in the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona, the debut of the Audi R8 Grand-Am race machine was nowhere near the competition level spectators were used to seeing from the German brand’s sports car effort. One year later, the Audi R8 Grand-Am brigade arrived at Daytona International Speedway with a decisively bolder ambition in 2013; capture GT class victory after 24 hours of racing.
Accepting the previous year as a test, Audi removed several barriers to secure a powerful showing at the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Doubling their force of Audi R8 Grand-Am cars this time around, all four vehicles would again be campaigned by so-called customer teams. However, the 2013 showing at Daytona for the R8 Grand-Am race cars were visibly supported by a much greater presence from Audi Sport. Firstly, the Audi R8 Grand-Am driver line-ups bolstered some notable names including DTM Series stars Felipe Albuquerque, Edoardo Mortara, Oliver Jarvis, Frank Biela and Markus Winkelhock who sport detailed resumes employed by the auto company. In addition, the APR Motorsport, Alex Job Racing and Rum Bum Racing were receiving other forms of aid throughout the weekend. During the race, pit crewmembers from the Audi Sport Team Joest operation were servicing at least one of the R8 Grand-Am cars. Face-to-face with the Porsche GT3 Cup, Chevrolet Camaro and Ferrari 458 machines in the GT category, the would competition perhaps realize prior to the green flag in qualifying Friday that the Audi R8 Grand-Am cars are planning to leave with Rolex watches (the victory trophy for the Rolex 24 at Daytona).
While a fleet of Porsches prevailed in qualifying, 24 hours around the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway’s road course would greatly play into the hands of the Audi R8 Grand-Am and its 5.2 liter V-10 engines. The mechanical problems that hindered the Audi R8 Grand-Am’s performance last year was nowhere to be found in 2013 competition. However, the lack of mechanical problems did not mean a runaway for the Audi R8 Grand-Am race cars. The #13 Rum Bum Racing, #24 Alex Job Racing and #52 APR Motorsport vehicles would each face time penalties for a range of incidents. For the #24 Audi R8 Grand-Am car, there was a 30-second time penalty levied following a spin by driver Edoardo Mortara. During the dawn of the morning sun, the #52 APR Motorsport R8 Grand-Am (shared by Ian Baas, Marc Basseng, René Rast and Frank Stippler) was hit by one of the faster Daytona Prototype machines.
Working hard against the setbacks through the 24-hour period, the Audi R8 Grand-Am race cars would prove too much for the other GT class competitions. At the checkered flag, the Alex Job Racing #24 Audi R8 Grand-Am car claimed class victory at Daytona. Consisting of the driving team of Edoardo Mortara, Dion von Moltke, Filipe Albuquerque, and Oliver Jarvis the #24 completed 678 laps and over 2,400 miles at Daytona to a roughly 1.5-second advantage over the #52 Audi R8 Grand-Am APR Motorsport car. Audi’s first victory at Daytona as well as their first Grand-Am Sports Car Series win, Alex Job Racing has been to GT class victory at the 24-hour race in 1999.
A one-two finish was the biggest achievement for the Audi teams competing at the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Honourable mention also goes to the two other Audi R8 Grand-Am cars that completed the full time distance in the Daytona sports car racing event. The #13 Rum Bum Racing Audi R8 featuring the driving partnership of Frank Biela, Christopher Haase, Matt Plumb and Markus Winkelhock finished seventh place in GT. The #51 Audi, a second campaigned by APR Motorsport, came home 12th in the GT class completing 668 laps. Matt Bell, David Empringham, John Farano, Alex Figge and Dave Lacey were teamed up in the #51 Audi R8 Grand-Am car.
As Audi continues to advance and compete with their prototype R18 e-tron Quattro race cars, the German premium carmaker is quickly starting to mobilize their produced-based racing program again. This year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona victory is the latest accolade for the production-based Audi R8. In the past 12-month period, the Audi R8 in the hands of several teams have been on a tear in worldwide endurance. Similarly prepped Audi R8 LMS have already won 24-hour races at the Spa-Francorchamps, Zolder and the Nurburgring.
Honouring the prototype R8 race car that instrumentally built Audi’s ongoing sports car racing dynasty, the production-based R8 is quickly constructing its own legacy.
Information and photo source: Audi AG, Grand Am
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
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