After finding themselves three laps down, APR Motorsport staged one of the comebacks of the day as they diced for the win in the closing stages of the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The #52 Audi R8 Grand-Am of Ian Baas, Marc Basseng, Rene Rast and Frank Stippler started the race from tenth on the grid, but, with Rast at the wheel, was up to second position at the end of the first hour.
After top-ten running for first few hours, a penalty for an improper wave-by under caution caused the team to lose two laps on the leader. A further lap was lost when Baas was hit by one of the Daytona Prototypes under darkness.
Strong driving and a well worked out pit strategy saw the team claw the laps back during Sunday morning, before getting back on the lead lap for the final three hours.
The final stint saw Rast battling with the Audis of AJR and Rum Bum, the Porsche of Magnus Racing and the AIM Motorsport Ferrari. The APR machine crossed the line in second, only 1.4 seconds behind the AJR R8.
“We were pushing like a sprint race,” said Rast. “After losing time over the night we had a big fight with the Ferrari and Porsche, and losing by a hundred meters was difficult. It was like a proper sprint race that had nothing to do with endurance. The Audi was great – we had a lack of top speed but the handling in the infield and under braking was very good. It’s difficult to lose by such a small margin but we pushed as hard as we could.”
“My final stint was actually quite difficult,” added Stippler. “A front tire was flat spotted and the water temperature was rising with a lot of debris on the front of the car. I just did my best to stay close to the leaders. Rene did a tremendous job. Before the weekend I would have been very pleased with second, but to be this close is difficult. But still, the team and the other drivers did a tremendous job.”
APR Motorsport owner Stephen Hooks was full of praise for his team’s work and commitment, not only through the 24 hours, but over the past 12 months.
“We’ve felt that we would be a winning program and to come so close in our biggest race of the year was really nerve-wracking.” said Hooks. “We came so close to winning but at the same time, this almost feels like a win. We had a very difficult 24 Hour last year and the crew never quit, and they brought that same attitude to this race. They called the right fuel strategy and we battled hard over the final hour. It goes without saying that I am really looking forward to the rest of the season.”
APR Motorsport will next be in action at the Circuit of the Americas for the next round of the Rolex Series.