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