Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pirelli World Challenge: Audi teams 2013 season review

By Tarek Ramchani and Johan Laubscher

2013 was a great year for the Audi brand in the demanding Pirelli World Challenge. A full squad of Audi R8 race cars had been entered from three different teams in the demanding GT class. GMG Racing was the leading team with a total of five Audi R8 LMS cars, of which they fielded four cars for the bulk of the season. JCR Motorsports entered an Audi R8 GRAND-AM which was slightly modified to meet the SCCA rules. DragonSpeed entered their Audi R8 LMS ultra at Sonoma for a once off appearance.

GMG Racing's James Sofronas lead the championship points table for most of the season and arrived as the leader at the final round in Houston. Unfortunately, bad luck hit the Audi team and driver, as the title went to arch rivals from Cadillac with Johnny O'Connel.

In the GTS class Don Istook's Audi TT RS missed the first part of the season due to Istook's bypass heart surgery. Later the popular Audi driver was back, returning at Lime Rock.

The season review has been compiled from the 2013 Audi Motorsport Blog Weekend Round Up posts. Each round has been added as was seen in the individual Weekend Round Up posts during 2013, which can be accessed via the links throughout the review below:

Round 1: Streets of St. Petersburg

The streets of St. Petersburg hosted the opening round of the SCCA Pirelli World Challenge. Five Audi cars were on the gird. Four Audi R8 LMS cars from GMG Racing and one new Audi R8 GRAND-AM car from Jeff Courtney Racing. James Sofronas was very fast this weekend, qualified in the top four and finished second in the first race after being promoted from third when the race winner was disqualified. The second race saw another traffic effected event with the #14 Audi R8 LMS of James Sofronas gaining the lead in the closing stages. He defended his position and crossed the line to take the first R8 LMS victory in the SCCA World Challenge.

Taken from Weekend Round Up - Audi Motorsport Blog (23-24/03/2013)

Round 2: Streets of Long Beach

The second round of the SCCA Pirelli World Challenge took place on the streets of Long Beach. Five Audis were entered for the event, the same entrants that were present at St. Petersburg. Four Audi R8 LMS cars from GMG Racing and one Audi R8 GRAND-AM from Jeff Courtney Racing, which was sporting a new larger rear wing. James Sofronas, the winner last time out and current championship leader, was very fast this weekend. He took pole position for the race at Long Beach. James Sofronas converted pole position into a second victory of the season. He won ahead of Ende in fourth and Curtis in fifth.

Taken from Weekend Round Up - Audi Motorsport Blog (20-21/04/2013)

Round 3: Circuit of the Americas

The SCCA Pirelli World Challenge headed to a new venue, the Circuit of the Americas. GMG Racing arrived with five Audi R8 LMS cars and JCR Motorsports entered their Audi R8 GRAND-AM. The Six Audis performed well this weekend. James Sofronas, in the #14 Audi R8 LMS, arrived as the championship leader and maintained that lead. He qualified second and achieved third in race one, followed by another sensational race victory in race two, taking three wins in the first five races of the season. Four Audis finished within the top ten during race one and five during the second race.

Taken from Weekend Round Up - Audi Motorsport Blog (18-20/05/2013)

Round 4: Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix

The Pirelli World Challenge headed to Detroit for the fourth round. A much smaller grid took part at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, with only nine GT class cars competing. Two Audis were entered at this event, both from GMG Racing. All eyes were on championship leader, James Sofronas, in the #14 Audi R8 LMS. He qualified in third and finished the safety car interrupted first race in fourth position. Sofronas had pole for race two but moved down to third in another heavily safety car effected race. Ultimately Sofronas finished in third followed by Ende, his GMG teammate, in fourth.

Taken from Weekend Round Up - Audi Motorsport Blog (1-2/06/2013)

Round 5: Lime Rock Park

Round five of the Pirelli World Challenge was at Lime Rock this weekend. Four Audi R8 LMS cars from GMG Racing were joined by the returning Don Istook in his TT RS. The Audis performed well, but the weekend was dominated by the opposition. Duncan Ende was the highest Audi in race one, placing fourth ahead of James Sofronas in sixth. The second race saw Sofronas finishing in fourth, followed by his three GMG teammates placing seventh through ninth.

Taken from Weekend Round Up - Audi Motorsport Blog (6-7/07/2013)

Round 6: Streets of Toronto

A week after Lime Rock the Pirelli World Challenge headed onto the Streets of Toronto for round six. Three GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS cars lined up on the grid this weekend. They showed good pace during practice, with James Sofronas topping the first session. In qualifying the Audis achieved a top three starting position as Sofronas qualified in third, followed by his Duncan Ende in eighth. The race ended with a fourth place for James Sofronas and Duncan Ende in sixth.

Taken from Weekend Round Up - Audi Motorsport Blog (13-14/07/2013)

Round 7: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Mid Ohio hosted the seventh round of the Pirelli World Challenge. Six Audis were entered: Four Audi R8 LMS cars from GMG Racing, one R8 GRAND-AM from JCR Motorsports and one TT RS from Istook’s Motorsport. The first race saw a spirited drive from the former championship leader, James Sofronas, as he battled up to third place. Two Audis finished within the top ten in race one. From the start of race two Sofronas, in the #14 GMG Audi R8 LMS, rocketed up to up second, but shortly thereafter he was passed by Pobst in the Volvo. Sofronas then began a race-long battle to maintain third position, and most importantly, trying to stay ahead of Johnny O'Connell. Duncan Ende in the #24 GMG Audi was also battling in the leading group. O'Connell eventually retired from the event and James was able to maintain his third place, to achieve his second podium finish of the weekend, collecting valuable points in his bid for the driver’s title. All five Audi GT cars finished race two within the top ten.

Taken from Weekend Round Up - Audi Motorsport Blog (3-4/08/2013)

Round 8: Sonoma

The penultimate round of the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge headed to Sonoma, round eight of the season. Four Audis were entered this weekend. Three Audi R8 LMS cars from GMG Racing, and one Audi R8 LMS ultra from DragonSpeed. This was the North American debut of the Audi R8 LMS ultra. The Audis placed well during practice and qualifying yielded the highest placed Audi in fourth, the #14 car of James Sofronas. It was a chaotic start to the race, which saw both championship contenders spun around in different incidents on the first lap: Sofronas in the Audi and Johnny O'Connell in the Cadillac. Sofronas was able to recover, helped by an early safety car period, and finished the race in third place. Duncan Ende was the highest placed Audi, having taken second place. Elton Julian finished fifth followed by Bill Ziegler in eighth place, all four Audis within the top ten.

Taken from Weekend Round Up - Audi Motorsport Blog (24-25/08/2013)

Round 9: Houston

The finale of the Pirelli World Challenge took place on the streets of Houston this weekend. It was a title showdown between James Sofronas in his GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS and Johnny O'Connell in his factory Cadillac CTS-V.R, which ended in heartbreak for GMG Racing. James Sofronas arrived in Houston as the points leader, with a mere 21 point lead over O'Connell. Three Audis were entered this weekend: two Audi R8 LMS cars from GMG Racing in the GT class and one Audi TT RS car from Istook Motorsports in the GTS class.The second GMG R8 LMS was piloted by Rene Rast, the factory Audi Sport customer racing driver, who had been added to the squad to support Sofronas’ bid for the title. Rast immediately showed his pace by placing second in the first practice session and first in the second session. Sofronas was sixth in both of the practice sessions. Qualifying was cancelled due to track altercations in the long break between practice sessions one and two, thus the grid was determined by championship points. This resulted in James Sofronas gaining the crucial pole position and Rene Rast starting sixth, last in the GT class, as he had no points on the table.The race itself saw very wet conditions. Sofronas lead the way ahead with Rast immediately moving up to fifth. The sixth placed Volvo misjudged the very next corner and went off and blocked Rast on track, resulting in Rast falling far behind. Sofronas continued to lead at the front as Rast began a tremendous recovery drive, lapping much faster than the front runners. Pobst in the Volvo took the lead followed by Sofronas ahead of O'Connell. Rast was able to catch and pass O'Connell, taking third and defending Sofronas in second. As the track began to dry the Cadillacs began to show pace. Sofronas suffered rear contact from Andy Pilgrim in the second Cadlillac, who had gotten past Rast. The resulting damage slowed Sofronas on track. O'Connell was able to take the lead from Pobst in the Volvo, whilst a massive battle ensued behind them with robust racing between the Audis and the second Cadillac. In the closing minutes Sofronas suffered a rear puncture and the championship dream finally came to an end, as O'Connell won the race and the championship. Rast finished fourth and Sofronas finished fifth within the GT class, taking second in the championship.

Taken from Weekend Round Up - Audi Motorsport Blog (5-6/10/2013)

Photo credit: Pirelli World Challenge