Saturday, January 12, 2013

Audi R8 LMS ultra assault on FIA GT Series

By Tarek Ramchani

A brand new GT series is being born in Europe, the FIA GT Series. “New” may not be the right word as the series is basically an evolution of the 2010-2012 FIA GT1 World Championship. As in 2012 the series will feature GT3 race cars and a two one-hour sprint race format each weekend.

Last season each brand could only be represented by one team. It was the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT who raced for Audi in the SRO series, thus meaning that no other Audi teams were allowed to compete. Now things are changing, multiple teams can represent a brand. At Audi three teams have already been confirmed.

Belgian Audi Club Team WRT is set to continue in 2013. The Belgians had some strong performances last year in FIA GT1 as WRT clinched three race victories, winning both season opening races at Nogaro and race 1 in Russia, at the Moscow Raceway. Of course the team had a great 2012 in the Blancpain Endurance Series where they reclaimed the drivers and team championships as well as taking the outright win at Zolder 24 Hours.

Phoenix Racing, a long time partner of Audi in both DTM and long distance races, is also confirmed. The Nürburgring based team is no stranger to FIA GT competition, having raced there in the past with Aston Martin and most recently with Corvette, always having achieved very strong results and performances. Phoenix Racing is coming from a fantastic 2012 year with the Audi R8 LMS ultra. They scored overall wins at the Bathurst 12 Hours, the Nürburgring 24 Hours and the Spa 24 Hours. Phoenix also did a great job in the demanding VLN Endurance Series at the Nordschleife, with two overall victories.

The other Audi team is Team Nova Driver from Portugal. The Portuguese customer team also had a brilliant 2012 by winning the Portuguese, Iberian and Spanish GT crowns. Nova Driver also ran successfully in the FIA GT3 European Championship, a series which used the same cars and almost the same set of rules as the new FIA GT Series.

Along with the three confirmed teams there are more Audi possibilities for the new FIA GT Series. Saintéloc have not committed to the entire season, but they have confirmed their participation at Nagaro, the opening round of the Championhship. SUNRED, the team who ran the Ford GT in the 2012 FIA GT1 World Championship, have expressed interest in running Audis in the 2013 season, however this remains unconfirmed.

The FIA GT Series will be a mostly European based championship. Five meeting are planned in Europe and the sixth and final event of the year will take place at a yet to be disclosed circuit in the Middle East. The season opener is set for Nogaro at the famous "Coupes de Pâques". Without any doubts the Audi squad will be one of the strongest in the field.

2013 FIA GT Series calendar:
1st April: Nogaro, France
21st April: Zolder, Belgium
14th July: Zandvoort, Netherlands
18th August: Slovakia Ring, Slovakia
13th October: Navarra, Spain
16th or 23rd November: Middle East

Photo credit: SRO/FIA GT1 World Championsip/FIA GT3 European Championship