Thursday, May 23, 2013

Audi customers pass tough Eifel test

Audi Press Release

The customer teams of last year's winner Audi experienced one of the toughest events of the Nürburgring 24 Hours this year. Heavy rain forced race control during the night to interrupt the race for more than nine hours. Numerous accidents caused a treacherous mix of oil, mud and rain water on the track. Three Audi R8 LMS ultra cars had accidents in these critical conditions and retired. In the end, Marcel Fässler/Mike Rockenfeller/Frank Stippler/Markus Winkelhock (CH/D/D/D) in fifth place were the best Audi drivers.

For the first time since the 24-hour Nürburgring debut of the racing version of the R8 in May 2009, there was no trophy for the GT sports car. Four times in succession, the R8 LMS won the GT3 class. In addition, Audi celebrated overall victory a year ago. Following this factory-backed commitment, customer teams exclusively relied on the most recent evolution of the R8 LMS ultra. Five teams put eight race cars on the grid. Frank Stippler (D) started the race weekend for Phoenix Racing by setting the best time in qualifying. From grid position one, last year's winner in car number 4 took the lead at the beginning of the race. Subsequently, the local hero from Bad Münstereifel, who was nominated for two cars, concentrated on his stints in car number 1, the R8 LMS ultra of G-Drive Racing by Phoenix.

Stippler with his team-mates Marcel Fässler, Markus Winkelhock and Mike Rockenfeller, who had directly arrived from Brands Hatch where he won a DTM round, was initially running among the top three teams. Due to an exchange of the oxygen sensor, car number 1 dropped to tenth place on Sunday night. Up to the interruption of the race the team had recovered to fourth place. On Monday, the quartet defended its position in the fiercely competitive field of the front runners as rain was repeatedly setting in again. In the end, they finished in fifth place.

Several Audi customers got to experience the trickiness of the conditions that prevailed after the race was interrupted. Michael Ammermüller (D) was fortunate when after an excursion only the tie rod on his number 4 Audi had to be exchanged. Consequently, together with Ferdinand and Johannes Stuck (A), he managed the leap onto position eight. One position behind them, Frank Biela/Christer Jöns/Luca Ludwig/Roman Rusinov (D/D/D/RUS) in the second car of G-Drive Racing by Phoenix reached the finish.

Almost simultaneously with Ammermüller, Laurens Vanthoor (B) had slipped into the guard rails on an oil leak. The suspension of his number 29 Audi of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT was too heavily damaged for a repair. Around 80 minutes later, Christian Mamerow (D) was struck by misfortune. At the ‘Schwedenkreuz' he got off track on a slippery spot. He destroyed the suspension of his number 2 R8 LMS ultra so that Prosperia C. Abt Team Mamerow retired.

Car number 14 of the Audi race experience experienced a smaller accident as well on lapping a rival but Pierre Ehret (D) was able to continue to drive. Piloted by other enthusiastic customers and several professional drivers, the two R8 LMS ultra cars of the Audi race experience otherwise completed their laps in a commanding manner and in the end took positions 18 and 28.

"I've never experienced such a tough event of the 24-hour race since the R8 started running here," said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "Still, our customers demonstrated a great fighting spirit. Our congratulations today go to those who finished the race and of course to the overall winners of Mercedes-Benz. I'm sure that our customers will attack again at Spa in July at the next 24-hour race."

Romolo Liebchen, Head of Customer Sport at quattro GmbH, commented, "Every string comes to an end. Since May 2012, the R8 has won four 24-hour races - at the Nürburgring, at Spa, at Zolder plus the class victory at Daytona in January. That the R8 LMS ultra is a reliable and fast endurance race car we saw nonetheless at the Nürburgring in the fierce competition of more than 30 GT3 race cars. Together with our customers, we're already looking forward to the next challenges."

Photo credit: Audi Media