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
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
Following their hard-fought race in France against the Peugeot factory squad, the Audi R18 grabbed the overall victory in the Le Mans 24 Hour endurance event for the 10th time in 12 races. While Audi Sport has routinely turned the 24 Hour of Le Mans into a glimmering showcase of their TDI technology, the German motorsport arm claimed another all-day affair just one country east of France. On the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, the Blancpain Endurance Series competitors met the full force of the Audi R8 sports car.
Unlike the most renowned 24-hour of Le Mans where prototype sports cars dominate the headlines, the 24 hours of Spa is based solely on the competition of production-based vehicles. Though production-derived, there is nothing garden variety about the competing products in the Blancpain Endurance Series. A fleet of fast and exotic cars such as the Ferrari 458 Italia, Mercedes-Benz SLS, Chevrolet Corvette Z06 as well as Aston Martin DBRS9 committed to a gruelling 24-hour race on the 7.004-kilometer (4.352 mile) Spa-Francorchamps circuit. For Audi, specially fitted R8 LMS race cars were fielded under Audi Sport WRT and Team Phoenix. Featuring a modified version of the brand’s 5.2 liter V-10 engine, the Audi R8 LMS race car targeted to two major European sports car endurance races at Germany’s Nurburgring and the at the Spa-Francorchamps complex on the 2011 calendar.
Starting in 7th place after the Belgium sports car race’s pole was snatched by a German rival BMW Z4 GT3, the #33 Audi Sport R8 LMS launched into attack mode. By the fourth hour in the 24 Hours of Spa, the #33 Audi Sport WRT R8 LMS was holding tight in 2nd place behind a Team Phoenix R8 LMS sister car. Taking the lead early into hour five, the #33 car would lead often through the night as well as through light rain at the Belgium track in the collective hands of Mattias Ekström, Timo Scheider and Greg Franchi. Despite the team making two scheduled brake pad changes over the 24 hours of racing, the #33 Audi R8 LMS won by a 2-lap gap over the #76 BMW Z4. The win in the GT3 Pro category rewards the Audi R8 LMS with the second GT3 class victory following a similar triumph at the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring.
Finishing in 4th place was the Audi Sport WRT group’s second car. The #32 Audi R8 LMS piloted by the driving team of Filipe Albuquerqe, Bert Longin and Stephane Ortelli fought from a 41st place starting position finishing just a lap behind the #35 Mercedes-Benz SLS GT3 car. The Team Phoenix two-car team found turmoil in their 2011 24 Hours of Spa race. Competing in the Audi R8 LMS race cars, the Team Phoenix #98 driver grouping finishing 14th while their teammate’s #98 placed45th after having to retire in the early morning hours.
Apart from the GT3 Pro entrants, a three-car Audi R8 LMS effort was fielded the 24 Hours of Spa’s Amateur ranks. American-based United Autosports Audi R8 LMS assembled some established greats of racing such as Mark Brundell, Indy 500 winners Arie Luyendyk and Eddie Cheever as well as Formula 1 winner Johnny Herbert amongst their three race vehicles. In the 2011 race, the United Autosports’ top finishing result was 6th in the GT3 Pro-Am category translating to 13th overall. “I’d like to thank everybody who worked so hard and with so much commitment to make this victory possible. After Le Mans, Audi now stands in the winners list of another great 24-hour race. We were able to show that the R8 is a fantastic sportscar. Our increasing number of customer teams also confirms this.” were the words from Werner Frowein, Managing Director of quattro GmbH.
In front of a confirmed 60,000 spectators, the Audi R8 LMS led 22 hours of the 24-hour race’s run. The Audi R8 LMS race car’s win came after over 3,817 kilometers (about 2,372 miles) around the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
Information source: Audi AG, SRO Ltd.
Photo source: Audi AG