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