Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rome 6 Hours: GT3 class victory for Audi Sport Italia Audi R8 LMS ultra at Vallelunga

By Johan Laubscher

Vallelunga in Italy played host to the 6 Ore di Roma (Rome 6 Hours) this weekend. Audi Sport Italia entered one of their Audi R8 LMS ultra cars for the endurance race.

The Italian Audi dealer team had a very strong year in the Italian GT Championship and EuroV8 Series and they decided to end-off the season with this endurance classic at Vallelunga. They had previously taken part in the 6 Ore di Roma in 2012, when the team won the GT3 class with a fourth place overall finish.

A total of twelve cars made up the field for the race this year. This included two Wolf prototypes, two Ferrari 458 Italia GT2 (GTE) cars and five FIA GT3 specifications cars. The GT3 entries saw one team and car each representing Audi, Porsche and Nissan, along with two Mercedes-Benz.

The #23 Audi Sport Italia Audi R8 LMS ultra was driven by Thomas Biagi, Filippo Francioni and Ferdinando Geri. They showed good pace during practice and qualified fifth overall, taking second in the GT3 class. The front row was locked out by two Wolf prototypes, followed by the #1 Ferrari 458 Italia GT2 and the #12 Porsche 911 GT3 R.

The race got underway with wet track conditions at 09h45 local time on Sunday. Filippo Francioni was behind the wheel of the Audi at the start and held his own in the front running GT battle. Clever pit strategy during the first safetycar period ensured that Audi Sport Italia took the GT3 class lead with Thomas Biagi behind the wheel.

Approaching half distance Audi Sport Italia continued to lead GT3 and they were also fighting for the overall lead against the #1 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia GT2 and the recovering #7 Wolf. As the race entered its final two hours the faster #7 Wolf prototype and the two Ferrari 458 Italia GT2 cars occupied the top three overall positions. Audi Sport Italia continued to lead GT3 with a healthy margin in fourth place overall.

Despite a small misfire problem hindering the Audi R8 LMS ultra, Ferdinando Geri drove very well to maintain Audi Sport Italia's one lap lead over the #12 Porsche 911 GT3 R, before handing over to Thomas Biagi for the final hour. Biagi consolidated the #23 Audi R8 LMS ultra's class lead and brought the car across the finish line for a well deserved GT3 victory and fourth place overall, equalling the team's result from 2012.

It was a terrific showing from Audi Sport Italia and a faultless drive that secured the GT3 class victory, ending off a great year for the Italian Audi team.

Photo credit: Thomas Biagi