Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The story of the 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra

By Johan Laubscher

The Audi R8 LMS was introduced in 2009 and almost instantly showed its potential. The cars then went on to claim multiple championships and victories during the next three seasons, until a newly updated version was introduced in 2012, the Audi R8 LMS ultra. This car also claimed much success during the 2012 season, after which further updates were announced for 2013, but the story turned out not to be so simple.

Original CAD image released by Audi Sport customer racing. Photo from Audi Media

At the end of 2012 Audi Sport announced that an upgraded Audi R8 LMS ultra would be available for the 2013 season, with the option for existing teams to purchase upgrade kits for their current R8 LMS / ultra cars. The differences between the original Audi R8 LMS ultra (2012) and the original 2013 version can be seen HERE
Team Novadriver testing their newly updated Audi R8 LMS ultra (2013). Photo from Team Novadriver
The new 2013 upgrades were initially shown in CAD designs released as press photos, but the actual new parts were yet to pass final homologation. Much was said about the new 2013 ultra, and many photos appeared online of the first teams taking delivery and testing their new cars, most notably Hitotsuyama Racing (Japan) and Team Novadriver (Portugal).

2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra on display at Geneva. Photo from

The new 2013 ultra also made an appearance on the Audi stand at the Geneva Motor Show in March. It was a silver ultra which was also fitted with the facelifted Audi R8 road car front and rear lights, but it should be noted that the cars that compete in competition are fitted with the older R8 road car lights, to lower the cost and damage of the parts in racing.
Audi R8 LMS ultra cars retrofitted to 2012 spec at Nogaro FIA GT Series. Photo from
It all looked set for the new ultra in 2013, as the start of most of the national and international GT Championships approached. However, the ultra was to face major issues during homologation, causing problems for some of the teams who had acquired new ultra cars / upgrade kits. The Audi R8 LMS ultra cars (all in 2013 spec) which were entered for the opening round of the FIA GT Series at Nogaro, had to be altered back into their 2012 specification, due to the homologation discrepancies as the car had not yet passed the process.

The original 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra rear diffuser. Photo from Audi Media
Eventually the homologation issues, which centered around the lavish new aerodynamic upgrades on the ultra, were sorted out. The 2013 specification Audi R8 LMS ultra was allowed to keep almost all of its parts, the notable omission being the new aggressive rear diffuser. All of the 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra cars are now required to run with the older specification Audi R8 LMS / ultra rear diffuser, as per the final homologation.

With the “homologation saga” completed, the 2013 cars have been allowed to compete internationally, but amongst all of the confusion regarding homologation, there were five Audi R8 LMS ultra cars which did indeed race in the full original 2013 specification.

The 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra cars which had competed before final homologation:

The Absolute Racing team at Sepang MSS. Photo from Audi Media

The race debut for the new ultra took place in Malaysia, at round one of the Malaysian Super Series, a support event for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang that weekend (23-24 March 2013). Absolute Racing entered the three cars which were driven by Jeffrey Lee (J-Fly Racing #7 blue), Philip Ma (Team Hong Kong Racing #98 orange) and Francis Hideki Onda (Tunewear Racing #77 red). The weekend was highlighted by a class podium finish for Jeffrey Lee.
M-Sport #10 Audi R8 LMS ultra competing at Oulton Park. Photo from British GT
The second appearance of a 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra came one week later, in Great Britain. M-Sport, a new Audi Sport customer racing team, entered their 2013 car in the opening round of the British GT Championship at Oulton Park (1 April 2013). It should be noted that this was the same weekend that all the cars at Nogaro (FIA GT Series) were disallowed to compete in the 2013 specification. For M-Sport’s entry the series organisers allowed them special dispensation to compete with the new car, as the team wanted to get use to their new machine. The dispensation included that they run penalty weight and thus they finished lower down in the order. The team’s drivers were Rembert Berg and Warren Hughes. Despite the result they gathered valuable experience with the car, as they demonstrated at round two, running the then fully allowed 2013 specification, finishing second overall at Rockingham.  

Hitotsuyama Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra at Okayama. Photo from Hitotsuyama Racing

The third and final competitive appearance of the full original 2013 specification was seen in Japan at Okayama, the opening round of the Japanese Super GT Series (7 April 2013). This was one week after the British GT and FIA GT Series weekend. The homologation was still not finalised by this point, and again the local series organisers allowed the car to compete, but with restrictions and weight due to its homologation status. Hitotsuyama Racing had entered the Audi R8 LMS ultra, driven by Akihiro Tsuzuki and Richard Lyons, and they finished lower down the field due to the restrictions handicapping the Audi.
The final 2013 homologation with older diffuser, as seen at Monza BES. Photo from Stefano Ciabettoni
The week that followed (8-14 April 2013) saw the appearance of many teams testing 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra cars, but with the older diffuser. It then emerged that the car had indeed finally been homologated and all of the cars since, in 2013 spec, have been seen with all of the new 2013 components, minus the new diffuser, as they were running the older diffuser. The first cars in the “new and final” 2013 spec were seen competing at the opening round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Monza and VLN round two at the Nürburgring (13-14 April 2013).

The Audi R8 LMS ultra Race-Taxi at Hockenheim DTM. Photo from cubebikes369 on Youtube
Since the final homologation, the new diffuser as all but disappeared. The only Audi R8 LMS ultra cars seen with the new diffuser are some of the display cars and the Audi Race-Taxi at the DTM events. The red/black Race-Taxi is also sporting the facelifted Audi R8 road car lights.

For now it remains uncertain if the full original 2013 specification will ever be seen in competition again, however the current 2013 cars (as per the final homologation) are beautiful and proving to be very successful so far this season. The R8 LMS ultra remains one of the best GT3 race cars currently available.   

Photo credit: (in order of appearance)
Stefano Ciabettoni - Mr Monza