This weekend at Sebring International Raceway, the Audi Sport Team Joest prototype organization prepares for the start of the 2012 sports car racing season. Since entering the sports car prototype arena in 1999, Audi’s motorsport efforts have pushed the four-ring badge to the top of track competition while their street cars captured accolades with customers.
With worldwide sales recorded at a 625,807 total in 1999, Audi AG scored 1,303,650 in vehicle unit sales across the planet in 2011 as the German luxury car brand has risen to a serious force in automotive production. While some debate the impact of motorsports on the street vehicles, Audi’s loyal attention to the high-priced sports car competition has provided a better-than-average case proving the benefits of factory support for auto racing. For 2012, the sports car racing efforts in prototype racing Audi Sport Team Joest will present several changes as they will attempt victory on the race track as well as win customers to new, production car-related technology.
As the Audi R18 TDI will take the green flag for the 2012 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the Team Joest-fielded vehicles will be part of the newly formed FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich committed “It’ll be a grand and no doubt thrilling inaugural event of the new WEC. The entire fields of the WEC and the American Le Mans Series will be competing together. “ The 2012 WEC represents collection of great, modern sports car races assembling on the globe’s most prestigious race circuits. Included in the high profile first season for WEC will debut at Sebring International Raceway before moving onto the Spa Francorchamps road course and famous Circuit de la Sarthe for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Audi Sport is committed to run every round with their R18 TDI prototypes throughout the inaugural eight-round competition.
Much of the pre-season excitement centered on the Audi prototype sports car program has been centered on the gasoline/electric hybrid version of the R18. Scheduled to run for the first time at the Belgium event in May, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro combines the mid-engine 3.7 liter V-6 TDI engine with an electric motor that will drive the front wheels. With rear wheels still being spun conventionally through TDI powerplant, the new prototype will bring a unique take on Audi’s much-touted quattro all-wheel drive. When Audi Sport Team Joest runs the 24 hours of Le Mans in mid-June, the plan is to run two hybrid cars within a four-car effort. For the Sebring race, Audi has prepared three non-hybrid R18 TDI prototype sports cars.
For the 12-hour event at Sebring, car #1 for Audi Sport Team Joest will feature the teaming of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the team last year. In the #2 Audi R18 TDI, the accomplished group of Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish will attempt to rekindle the magic they used to collectively win the 2009 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Sharing the #3 car, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Loïc Duval will round out the highly talented 2012 driver line-up for Audi Sport Team Joest.
Audi Sport Team Joest will be seeking their 10th victory in the 12-hour race. From 2000 to 2007, Audi had affirmative possession of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring overall honours with the Audi R8 and R10 prototype race cars. Interrupted for claiming victory by a pair of Porsche RS Spyders in 2008, Audi did succeed in maintaining its streak of LMP1 class victory at the Sebring International Raceway for a total of nine consecutive races. Stretching the automaker’s records with a ninth overall Sebring race win in 2009, the Peugeot 908 has presided as the top prototype runner for the famous sports car event. With Peugeot opting out of the 2012 edition of the Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the Audi R18 is heavily favoured for victory late Saturday night.
With preparations for the 60th running of the Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida ongoing this week, the clock for the half-day endurance race starts March 17th at 10:15 AM Eastern time.
Information source: American Le Mans Series, Audi AG
Photo and video Source: Audi AG
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
An annual event where the best in sports car racing sprint around the Road Atlanta circuit for 1,000 miles or 10-hours (whichever comes first), the Petit Le Mans has become a final event in the sports car racing season. One of many sports car races Audi has won on a multitude of occasions since 2000, the Audi Sport Team Joest race organization will be wearing silver into combat for the first time with their 24 Hours of Le Mans winning R18 TDI prototype sports car. While tested at the Sebring International Raceway just days after the Mobil 12 hour race, the Audi R18 TDI prototype sports car will make its competitive debut in the North America at the 2011 Petit Le Mans in Road Atlanta.
Built to new safety and performance rules set out by the ACO (the French sanctioning body that oversees many sports car events including the 24 Hour of Le Mans race), the Audi R18 TDI is another evolution on the competitive ladder the premium carmaker. Powered by a smaller V-6 engine through an electronic gearbox, the R18 prototype sports car has better weight balance than the previous Audi R15 Plus. The biggest change to the Audi racing machine was the incorporation of a roof over the driver. A closed cockpit prototype, the R18 became the first such vehicle since the early Audi R8C that run last in 1999.
Long respected as a showcase where the best creations of auto manufacturers competed on speed and endurance, sports car racing is once again relevant as a test bed for modern automotive technology. In the case of Audi, their prototype sports car program aided in the refinement of several items currently utilized in production car. Their Audi R8 prototype won the Le Mans 24-hour race thanks to the FSI gasoline direct injection technology allowing team drivers to remain on track longer. Since the introduction of the Audi R10 in 2006, the German automaker advocates their clean diesel technology discovering an unfair advantage over gasoline-powered race cars. In the Audi R18 TDI, the race vehicle is the showcase for full LED headlights recently introduced in production vehicles including the Audi A8 sedan. Introduced as low-beam illumination on the Audi R15 TDI sports car, the LED lighting technology is fine-tuned for the R18 prototype.
Making its debut at the 2011 Petit Le Mans, this race is part of the 6-race run for the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. An award that the ACO established in 2010, this is a modern initiate to crown a global honour. Leaving the 6-Hours of Silverstone, the Peugeot squad’s 908 prototype has propelled the French team to a 7-point lead over Audi Sport Team Joest. Having won the Petit Le Mans 9 times in the LMP (Le Mans Prototype) class, the Audi R18 TDI will have to out muscle the Peugeot who has won the previous two Road Atlanta events.
On October 1st, Audi Sport Team Joest will bring a two-car contingent with three drivers per Audi R15 TDI race machine. In car #1, Timo Bernard, Romain Dumas and Marcel Fassler combining for 4 overall wins at Road Atlanta. The #2 Audi R18 TDI will be helmed by an experienced trio of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello.
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