By Johan Laubscher
1. The Weekend
Focussing on the weekend of 25 - 26 January 2014
2. The Events
2.1. 24 Hours of Daytona (GTD)
The 24 Hours of Daytona was held this weekend, round one of the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Five Audi R8 LMS cars from four different teams were entered in the GT Daytona (GTD) class. Two cars from Flying Lizard Motorsports and one each from Fall-Line Motorsports, Paul Miller Racing and GMG Racing.
Three weeks ago the Audis showed great pace at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 (pre-event test days) and Flying Lizard Motorsports set the fastest overall GTD class lap time with their #45 Audi R8 LMS.
The official 24 Hours of Daytona track action got underway on Thursday. Two practice sessions preceded the four individual class qualifying sessions and a third practice session later in the evening. The Audi teams showed good pace in all of the sessions, but it turned out to be a day of ups and downs.
The first practice session saw the #46 Fall-Line Motorsports Audi R8 LMS of Charles Espenlaub, Oliver Jarvis, Charlie Putman and James Walker topping the GTD class time sheets. The next Audi in the times was that of Paul Miller Racing with the #48 R8 LMS of Matthew Bell, Christopher Haase, Bryce Miller and René Rast in thirteenth. GMG Racing placed nineteenth with Marc Basseng, Frank Stippler, James Sofronas and Alex Welch in the #32 Audi R8 LMS. Flying Lizard Motorsports' two R8 LMS cars, numbers 35 and 45, finished twentieth and twenty-fifth. The #35 is driven by Filipe Albuquerque, Seth Neimann, Alessandro Latif and Dion von Moltke, and the #45 by Nelson Canache Jr, Tim Pappas, Spencer Pumpelly and Markus Winkelhock.
The second practice session was held later on Thursday and Paul Miller Racing placed sixth with the #48 R8 LMS. The #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports R8 LMS was thirteenth fastest, ahead of Fall-Line Motorsports #46 in fifteenth and the #35 Flying Lizard Motorsports in seventeenth. GMG Racing's #32 R8 LMS was twentieth.
Qualifying was up next and highlighted by Paul Miller Racing taking pole position in the GTD class and Fall-Line Motorsports taking third within GTD. The celebrations were however short lived, as both of the two front running Audi cars were disqualified for technical infringements and would have to start from the back of the grid.
Paul Miller Racing was disqualified due to a problem with their rear wing end plates and Fall-Line Motorsports' ride height was at fault.
Due to the disqualifications the highest Audi on the starting grid was originally the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports R8 LMS in eighteenth. The #35 Flying Lizard Motorsports and #32 GMG Racing were twentieth and twenty-first respectively.
The Audi teams also performed well in the third practice session held on Thursday evening. Three of the Audis placed within the top ten, with Flying Lizard Motorsports #45 and #35 placing seventh and ninth, sandwiching #46 Fall-Line Motorsports in eighth. Paul Miller Racing #48 was thirteenth and GMG Racing #32 was twenty-fifth.
The big news on Thursday was the pole position and subsequent disqualification of Paul Miller Racing's #48 Audi R8 LMS. Christopher Haase's GTD pole time was penalised following a technical infringement with the car's rear wing end plates. Since then the IMSA supervisory officials had reviewed the case. It was announced on Friday that Paul Miller Racing's pole position was reinstated and the penalty rescinded.
The fourth and final practice session was held on Friday morning. Two Audi R8 LMS cars made it into the GTD class top ten. The #46 Fall-Line Motorsports Audi R8 LMS placed sixth fastest in GTD. They were followed by the #35 Flying Lizard Motorsports R8 LMS in tenth.
The #32 GMG Racing R8 LMS was nineteenth fastest. The newly reinstated GTD pole sitters, Matthew Bell, Christopher Haase, Bryce Miller and René Rast in the #48 Paul Miller Racing R8 LMS, were twenty-fourth fastest. The #45 Audi R8 LMS from Flying Lizard Motorsports rounded out the Audi runners in twenty-sixth.
With four practice sessions and qualifying behind the teams, it was full steam ahead towards the green flag at 14:10 local time on Saturday afternoon. It was also the beginning of a new era in North America, as it was round one of the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
The race got underway on Saturday afternoon with plenty of action within the GTD class. Fall-Line Motorsports’ race came to an end after five laps, following an accident at turn one with Charlie Putman behind the wheel. The #46 Audi R8 LMS could not be repaired to take part further in the race, but fortunately Putman was unharmed. Turn one was also the scene of GMG Racing’s race coming to an end during the night. An LMPC car made contact with James Sofronas and the resulting accident ended the #32 Audi R8 LMS team’s run at the 2014 24 Hours of Daytona. Luckily Sofronas also escaped unharmed.
At the front the Paul Miller Racing #48 and Flying Lizard Motorsports #45 Audi R8 LMS cars remained within the lead battle at the front of the GTD class. After setting the pace for many hours, Paul Miller Racing suffered a series of pitstops and a water leak, which dropped them out of contention and they ultimately finished sixteenth.
Flying Lizard Motorsports soldiered on with their two car entry, fighting for positions within the top ten, with the #45 recovering and staying in touch with the leaders. The #35 Audi R8 LMS crew came home to finish fifth. The #45 Audi R8 LMS was involved in a titanic battle at the end of the race with the #555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia.
Markus Winkelhock was behind the wheel of the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS during the final stint and he was battling hard with the Ferrari. The final lap saw the Ferrari ahead of the Audi. Winkelhock had a good run on the Ferrari in the infield section and positioned his car for a bold outside manoeuvre, which saw him going side-by-side with the Ferrari. Winkelhock then subsequently went wide, with the Ferrari on his inside, and lost some ground. The Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari crossed the line first, but later received a seventy-five second time penalty for what was deemed to be avoidable contact during the side-by-side moment.
Flying Lizard Motorsports was then declared as the race winners, but a few hours later IMSA retracted the highly criticized time penalty and Level 5 Motorsports were reinstated as the GTD class race winners. The final results then saw the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS squad of Nelson Canache Jr, Tim Pappas, Spencer Pumpelly and Markus Winkelhock finishing second within GTD. The official Audi press release states: "The Team Flying Lizard Motorsports reserves further action against this decision and would like to comment not before Monday."
2.2. 24 Hours of Daytona (P)
2013 DTM champion, Mike Rockenfeller, was part of the Spirit of Daytona squad (SDR Motorsports) for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The deal is said to also include the other TUSC endurance races, the Sebring 12 Hours and Petit Le Mans. At Daytona the #90 Corvette DP was driven by Rocky alongside Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook. They qualified in second position and finished the long and grueling race in fourth, two laps off the lead.
2.3. Other Audi News
On Thursday Audi announced their driver line-ups for the 2014 DTM season. The 2014 driver line-up consists mostly of familiar faces, but with a number of shifts having taken place among the teams. Nico Müller is the only new driver within the Audi squad for 2014.
Audi Sport Team Phoenix:
Mike Rockenfeller and Timo Scheider
Audi Sport Team Phoenix:
Mike Rockenfeller and Timo Scheider
Audi Sport Team Rosberg:
Jamie Green and Nico Müller
Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline:
Mattias Ekström, Adrien Tambay, Miguel Molina and Edoardo Mortara
Audi Sport took part in DTM testing at Portimão in Portugal this week. Timo Scheider, Jamie Green, Miguel Molina and Edoardo Mortara where behind the wheel for Audi. The test took place in difficult conditions, but a lot of mileage and data was completed and gathered during the three-day test.
The Audi R8 V10 was the official safety car at the 24 Hours of Daytona this weekend.
An Audi R18 e-tron quattro was on display at the 2014 Salon de l'Auto - Brussels Motor Show this week. Two-time Le Mans winner, André Lotterer, was also at the show and signed autographs for the visitors.
2013 FIA GT Series Pro Cup champion, Laurens Vanthoor, was also at the 2014 Salon de l'Auto - Brussels Motor Show. He signed autographs at the Audi stand during the week. His FIA GT Series winning Audi R8 LMS ultra from Belgian Audi Club Team WRT was also on display at the show.
Phoenix Racing’s livery for the 2014 Bathurst 12 Hour was released on Tuesday. The team will be entering one Audi R8 LMS ultra at the event. The car will be driven by Rahel Frey, René Rast and Laurens Vanthoor.
Brothers Racing Team has formed a partnership with Audi Sport customer racing China. The Chinese BRT team had entered two Audi R8 LMS cars in the 2013 Audi R8 LMS Cup and the Sepang 12 Hours. They will be increasing their involvement in 2014. Four BRT Audi R8 LMS cars will be competing in the 2014 Audi R8 LMS Cup. The partnership also includes a deal for Cheng Congfu to drive a BRT Audi R8 LMS in European GT events.
BQRacing has acquired one of the Audi R8 LMS Cup cars and they will be entering it in the 2014 Thailand Super Series.
The Thailand Super Series (TSS) has a number of very potent GT3 race cars competing in the series and an Audi R8 LMS will be debuting on the grid this season. The BQRacing R8 LMS is the “Audi Ultra Team” car that was used by Cheng Cong Fu and Andre Couto in the 2014 Audi R8 LMS Cup.
Rotek Racing revealed their twelve possible 2014 BTCC liveries this week. They are asking for input from their fans to vote for their favourite livery. Rotek Racing will be entering one Audi S3 NGTC car in the 2014 British Touring Car Championship. The twelve liveries can be seen HERE.
Münnich Motorsport revealed their 2014 livery for the FIA World Rallycross Championship. They will be entering on Audi A3/S3 rallycross car in the SuperCar category. The 2014 livery was designed by berzerkdesign.de.
Raeder Motorsport and Manthey Racing held a track day at Ascari in Spain this week. Raeder Motorsport ran three of their Audi race cars, their two Audi R8 LMS ultra cars and their SP3T Audi TT RS.
Melbourne Performance Centre was out testing at Phillip Island on Wednesday. It was also the scene where Equity-One Motorsport revealed their new 2014 livery. They also took part in the testing as part of MPC. Melbourne Performance Centre will be entering three Audi R8 LMS and ultra teams at the Bathurst 12 Hour in February.
3. Next Weekend’s events (1-2/02/2014)
All photos are hosted at their respective websites, which are listed within the Weekend Round Up