Audi got their 2011 racing program off to the best imaginable start with a sublime 1-2 at last weekend's Bathurst 12 Hours.
In the first race since the re-structuring of the Audi customer sports program two Audi R8 LMS entered under the Audi race experience Team Joest banner took on the race at Australia's most famous race track – Mount Panorama.
Victory went to the trio of Bathurst rookies – Marc Basseng, Christopher Mies and Darryl O'Young – in the no.8 car, beating the all Australian line-up of Warren Luff, Craig Lowndes and Mark Eddy manning the no.7 entry.
The two cars dominated the race, proving not only to be fastest car around the 6.21km track, but also the most reliable machine over the course of the race. Much of the 12 hour duration saw both the R8 LMS fight for the lead with a Porsche fielded by a local team. However, the challenger eventually fell behind, though only by a lap, leaving the two Audis split by just 0.7 seconds at the end of the race. The victory was the 65th of the R8 LMS's career, which spans just two years.
Lowndes had been at the wheel of the second placed car at the moment when, in hindsight the race was lost, a slow puncture forcing the Australian Touring Car legend into an extra pitstop that didn't count as one of mandatory stops required under the regulations.
“The weekend was sensational,” Lowndes said. “It was a great weekend for Australians to be involved. It was unbelievable that Audi would consider to coming here to Bathurst. It's our grand final, it's our track that we love so much. It's great for Audi and Audi race experience Team Joest to come and campaign two cars at this event. We didn't know the car, Marc, Christopher and Darryl didn't know the circuit. I think we combined very well as a team. And we got a result that the team deserved, a 1-2.”
“I'm speechless! After twelve hours, we've won by a margin of 0.7 seconds,” German Mies added. “Both cars fought for victory. Craig Lowndes tried everything in the number seven car. In my stint, I managed to set the fastest lap time. I really drove my socks off. At the end, it was enough for Marc, Darryl and myself to win. I'm delighted. Now I've clinched my first win in an endurance race with Audi.”
“Very honestly,” admits team Technical Director Ralf Juttner, “this race was almost more nerve-wrecking than quite a few Le Mans races. A true thriller! As predicted, it took quite a while until we got a clear idea of everyone's performances. There were different pit stop rules for different cars. It was exciting up until the end. The Porsche that finished third also had a fair chance as did one Cup car. Our number 7 car just had bad luck. Without the puncture, it could have clearly won the race.”
“It got tense towards the end as the guys really went for it. Both cars were free to race for victory. Ten minutes before the end, there was a splash and dash pitstop for the number 8 car. We've guided the cars to the finish in this order in the remaining three laps. A big thank you also to Mark Eddy. Nine of his team members supported us in Bathurst. Within five days, we've gelled into a fantastic team”