Sunday, November 3, 2013

Weekend Round Up - Audi Motorsport Blog (2-3/11/2013)

By Johan Laubscher

1. The Weekend

Focussing on the weekend of 2 - 3 November 2013

2. The Events

  •           SA Production Cars
  •           Brazilian GT
  •           Super GT 

2.1. SA Production Cars

The South African Bridgestone Production Cars were at Kyalami for the ninth and final round of the season. The four regular Audi S4 cars were present at Kyalami, two each from Terry Moss Racing and VMP Motorsport. 

Michael Stephen arrived at Kyalami as the clear leader in the Class A championship points standings. Stephen was aiming to clinch his third consecutive Class A drivers’ title and Terry Moss Racing’s fourth since 2007. The Terry Moss Racing squad were once again represented by Michael Stephen in the #1 Audi S4 and his teammate, Tschops Sipuka, in the #2 Audi S4. VMP Motorsport also had their regular two car team, with Melvill Priest in the #7 VMP Audi S4 and the #32 Ferodo Audi S4 of Gennaro Bonafede. 

Very close times were seen during the three practice sessions on Friday. Qualifying kicked off the day’s proceedings on Saturday. The battle for pole position was won by Melvill Priest in his VMP Audi S4. Gennaro Bonafede qualified in fifth and Tschops Sipuka in sixth, but both were later disqualified for a breech in Parc Ferme regulations. Michael Stephen had brake issues during qualifying and did not set a time. 

The first race got underway with Melvill Priest leading from the front. The race finished with Melvill Priest in third and Gennaro Bonafede in fourth. Sipuka had gone into the pits before the race ended. Michael Stephan had been running well, but he suffered radiator damage when he touched the Subaru from behind and he then circulated slowly at the back of the field to collect points. The teams had a very short break to prepare the cars before the second race. Michael Stephen had switched to Sipuka’s Audi S4 and lined up in sixth place. 

Race two saw a tremendous battle for second position. Bonafede dropped back from the fight for second due to technical issues, whilst Melvill Priest was battling hard for second. The race concluded with Michael Stephen in third and Melvill Priest in fourth. Bonafede finished sixth. Sipuka had joined the tail of the field in Stephen's repaired S4 during the first lap of race two and he was classified in seventh by the finish. These results were enough to crown Michael Stephen as the 2013 Class A champion, his third consecutive title. Michael Stephen again used his teammate’s car in race three. Sipuka lined up on the grid with Stephen’s repaired Audi S4. 

The final race of the season, race three on the day, got underway with the BMW leading from the front. There was a tremendous battle for second place. The Subaru was battling hard with Gennaro Bonafede in second and Priest in fourth. The battle continued for the bulk of the race before both Priest and Bonafede dropped back. Stephen had remained in touch with the leading group and pounced during the final few laps, as he moved up to second. Gennaro Bonafede finished fourth with continuing fuel pressure issues and Melvill Priest nursed his car across the line for sixth, ahead of Sipuka in seventh. 

This concluded the final round of the 2013 Bridgestone Production Cars Championship. It was a great season which saw many Audi S4 victories and podiums, and most importantly, Michael Stephen clinched his third consecutive Class A drivers’ title.

2.2. Brazilian GT

The Brazilian GT Championship (South American GT Championship) was in Argentina this weekend. The seventh round of the series was held at Autódromo Juan y Oscar Gálvez. Ebrahim Motors entered their Audi R8 LMS ultra with great results at this event. 

Ebrahim Motors have been full season competitors with their R8 LMS ultra, which is driven by the Ebrahim brothers: Fabio and Wagner Ebrahim. Their driver line-up was however different for the event in Argentina. The #20 Audi R8 LMS ultra was driven by Wagner Ebrahim and Felipe Tozzo. 

They showed good pace during practice and again proved to be very fast in qualifying. Wagner Ebrahim was able to claim second on the grid for the first race set for Saturday. His teammate, Felipe Tozzo, was able to go one better, as he claimed pole position for race two on Sunday. 

The first race got underway late on Saturday afternoon. Ebrahim and Tozzo finished the first race by placing second, finishing nineteen seconds behind the pole sitting and eventual race winning Blau Lamborghini Gallardo. 

Race two was held on Sunday and the Audi R8 LMS ultra lined up in pole position. They led the race from the drop of the flag and maintained the lead after the pitstop phase. The championship’s visit to Argentina concluded with a well deserved victory for Wagner Ebrahim and Felipe Tozzo in the second race. It was a dominant victory for the team.

2.3. Super GT

The finale of the Japanese Super GT was held at Twin Ring Motegi this weekend, the eighth round of the year. Once again Hitotsuyama Racing was the only Audi R8 LMS ultra entrant with their 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra entry. The #21 Audi was driven by their regular driver line-up of Akihiro Tsuzuki and Richard Lyons. 

It has been a difficult year for the team. They placed twenty-first during practice and qualified fifteenth within the GT300 class. The race itself saw the Hitotsuyama Racing team coming home for a twenty-first place finish. This event concluded the 2013 Super GT season, but many of the teams will be competing at the special non-championship event in November, the Fuji Sprint Cup.

2.4. Other Audi News

Phoenix Racing hosted a “Champion’s Party” on Saturday evening, which celebrated the many successes enjoyed by Phoenix Racing during 2013. Many guests were present to celebrate this tremendous year with Phoenix Racing. A number of race cars were also on display at the event, including the RS 5 DTM of Mike Rockenfeller and a number of Phoenix’s Audi R8 LMS ultra cars. It has certainly been a terrific year for Phoenix Racing. The drivers’ and teams’ titles in the DTM and multiple wins and podiums with the Audi R8 LMS ultra.

The official Audi Sport Facebook page passed the 300000 fans mark on Monday morning. They achieved 250000 a few short weeks ago and experienced over 50000 new likes in a short period of time.

The 25 Hours of Thunderhill will be taking place in December. A third Audi entry has been included in the latest update of the provisional entry list. The first draft of the provisional entry list was revealed on 24 September and that list included two Audi entries. The original two entries were both from GMG Racing, who are entering two Audi R8 LMS cars in the ES class. At the time Rotek Racing mentioned their intention to compete in the race on their Facebook page, but they were not listed on the entry list as of yet. Rotek Racing has been campaigning an Audi TT RS (VLN SP4T) car in the German VLN Endurance Championship this year, the very same car that was used by 034 Motorsport at the 2012 25 Hours of Thunderhill. The latest update of the provisional entry list was published on Monday and it now officially includes the Rotek Racing TT RS, which is also entered in the ES class, thus upping the Audi count to three cars in total.

Melvill Priest, a long time Audi race driver in South Africa, has decided to retire from his current racing commitments. His decision has been based on his business commitments away from the track. Priest has been competing with Audi race cars since 2005. He started in the South African Production Car Championship with the VMP Motorsport Audi A4 B7 mid-way through 2005, when Audi race cars returned to the top level of South African saloon car racing for the first time since 2000. Priest was also the first Audi driver to score race victory after the return of the Four Rings in 2005. He continued to campaign the VMP A4 from 2005 until 2009, when he switched to a BMW drive for 2010-2011. Priest and the VMP Motorsport squad returned in 2012 with a brand new Audi S4 race car, with which they competed in 2012 and 2013. Priest has enjoyed multiple race victories in Class A of the South African Production Cars and also took pole position and a podium at his swansong event at Kyalami this weekend.

Melbourne Performance Centre has announced that Steve McLaughlan will be campaigning his Audi R8 LMS in the 2014 Australian GT Championship, competing in the GT Trophy class. McLaughlan is set to take the 2013 GT Trophy title with his Viper at the Australian GT finale in New Zealand next weekend. He debuted with his Audi R8 LMS at Phillip Island last weekend, when he won the Victorian State Circuit Racing Championships Sports Cars title.

W Racing Team (WRT) will be taking part in the International GT Open finale at Barcelona. Filipe Albuquerque had announced his participation in the event with WRT on his Facebook page during last week. The WRT driver line-up was confirmed this week and their Audi R8 LMS ultra will be driven by Filipe Albuquerque and Yves Weerts.

Team Novadriver were present at the Audi Experience event held at Portimão this week. They had one of their Audi R8 LMS ultra cars on site and were offering taxi rides to the guests.

DragonSpeed has entered their Audi R8 LMS ultra for yet another endurance race this year. They have been included on the Gulf 12 Hours provisional entry list. The latest Gulf 12 Hours entry list was published on 31 October and the DragonSpeed Audi R8 LMS ultra has now been included. This will be the team’s fourth event with their Audi this year, as they also took part in the 2013 Dubai 24 Hours, the Bathurst 12 Hours and the Pirelli World Challenge round at Sonoma. The team has also been seen testing at the Circuit of The Americas recently. United Autosports were on the original Gulf 12 Hours provisional entry list, however both of their entries (their Audi and one McLaren) are no longer on the latest entry list. Thus only one Audi is currently entered for the event. Also of note is the debut entry of the new Bentley Continental GT3 race car, which will be run by M-Sport, who competed with an Audi R8 LMS ultra during most of the 2013 British GT season.

The FIA GT Series finale will be held on the streets of Baku in Azerbaijan, with the Baku World Challenge. A grid of thirty cars has been included on the provisional entry list, which has six Audi R8 LMS ultra entries. Four Audi R8 LMS ultra cars were present at the penultimate FIA GT Series round at Navarra, three cars from WRT and one from Team Novadriver. These four entries will be at Baku and they will be joined by two further entries. Phoenix Racing will be making their return to the series with their #5 Audi R8 LMS ultra, along with a fourth car from WRT. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT is heading to Baku as the leaders in the teams’ title chase and they are guaranteed the drivers’ title, as only their entries are in the running, two titles which will be decided at Baku.

Australian V8 Supercars star, Jason Bright, will be taking part with an Audi R8 LMS ultra at Highlands Motorsport Park in New Zealand next weekend. Bright has already been announced as having been added to the Rod Salmon Melbourne Performance  Centre Audi R8 LMS ultra entry for the 2014 Bathurst 12 Hour. The Australian GT finale will be taking place at Highlands Motorsport Park next weekend. A special non-championship endurance race will also be taking place on Sunday, the Highlands 101 race. Two Audis have been entered for the 101: the Equity-One Motorsport Audi R8 LMS of Dean Koustoumidis and Andrew McInnes, and the Rod Salmon Audi R8 LMS ultra, both run by Melbourne Performance Centre. Rod Salmon will be joined by Liam Talbot and Jason Bright for the endurance race. Both Audis are also entered for the Australian GT finale at the same event. The Salmon car will be driven by Rod Salmon and Liam Talbot for the two Australian GT races.

Belgian Audi Club Team WRT are busy preparing for their last events of the season and they were seen testing at Zolder on Thursday. The Belgian team is currently preparing for the finale of the FIA GT Series, where they will be fielding four cars. Their regular three car team will be joined by a fourth car, which will be driven by Filipe Albuquerque and Grégoire Demoustier. WRT will also be taking part in the International GT Open finale at Barcelona, where they will be entering one Audi R8 LMS ultra for Filipe Albuquerque and Yves Weerts. The Zolder test day on 31 October saw the participation of WRT and one of their Audi R8 LMS ultra cars, which was driven by Grégoire Demoustier. The day ended prematurely for WRT, as Demoustier suffered a crash with the car due to an issue with the brakes. He is luckily unharmed, but the car did sustain frontal damage.

A new video was released this week revealing an Audi Sport tie-in with the new Forza Motorsport 5 X Box One console game. The video featured interviews with many of the Audi Sport LMP1 program’s drivers and personnel. The video can be seen HERE

The 2013 Superstars Series concluded at Franciacorta last weekend. The event was dominated by Audi Sport Italia, as Gianni Morbidelli won the Italian Superstars title, along with his International Superstars title that he won two weeks earlier. It has since emerged that the Superstars organising body will not be allowing four-wheel drive vehicles to compete in the championship from 2014 onwards. Thus the victories at Franciacorta were the swansong for quattro race cars in the Superstars Series. The series had seen quattro vehicles competing and winning since 2005. Audi RS 6 quattro C5, Audi RS 4 quattro B7 and Audi RS 5 quattro B8 cars have all competed in the series and they all experienced at least one championship title since the 2005 season.  

ATL Automotive’s racing team has been campaigning an ABT-Audi TT-R in Jamaica and the Caribbean since 2011. The car has been driven by Doug Gore ever since it arrived in Jamaica. This week it was announced that ATL has decided to withdraw from motorsport, after having achieved their objectives with the project. This has now prompted Doug Gore to purchase the TT-R. Gore had a fifty percent ownership deal with ATL and he has now purchased ATL’s share in the car. He is planning to continue campaigning the vehicle and he is in the process of signing new sponsors. Doug Gore will be seen in action at the finale of the Caribbean Motor Racing Championship (CMRC), which will be held in Guyana later this month.

3. Next Weekend’s events (9-10/11/2013)

  •           FIA WEC
  •           Australian GT
  •           Spanish GT
  •           GT Open
  •           Super Taikyu
  •           Audi R8 LMS Cup
  •           Highlands 101

All photos are hosted at their respective websites, which are listed within the Weekend Round Up