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