Audi’s international motor racing campaign will begin this weekend at the 53rd annual Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 24th-25th.
Audi customers Flying Lizard Motorsports and Paul Miller Racing will participate in the American endurance classic, which forms the opening round of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship. Both teams will field an Audi R8 LMS in the GT Daytona class.
A total of 19 cars will race in the fiercely competitive GTD category, with Audi’s customers expected to challenge at the front after winning the class in 2013 and finishing on the podium last year.
“We will give our customer teams the best possible support so that they can bring home a good result in this race, which is one of the world’s five most important endurance races,” explains Head of Audi Sport customer racing Romolo Liebchen. “I hope that an R8 LMS finishes on the podium again.”
The Flying Lizard Motorsports R8 LMS will be participating in its first race since longstanding Team Principal Seth Neiman decided to take a step away from racing. The #45 crew will be comprised of Japanese drivers Tomonobu Fujii and Satoshi Hoshino, with Robert Thorne and 2014 driver Markus Winkelhock joining them.
Flying Lizard’s last outing at Daytona ended in confusion after a late tangle with the leading Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3. A revoked penalty on the Level 5 car ultimately dropped the Audi crew to second place, at the stewards’ discretion. This year, the American squad is returning to one of the toughest and busiest endurance races in world, with the intention of improving their 2014 result.
“The 24 hours of Daytona seems very long,” explains Winkelhock. “In contrast to the European 24-hour races at the Nürburgring or Spa, in US motorsport you have the opportunity to make up lost laps during the many safety car phases. As a result, no team can build up a big lead, and in the closing stages it’s like a sprint race with everybody fighting for the win. As a driver, you must also be aware of the faster cars in the prototype class and always keep an eye on the rear-view mirror.”
Meanwhile, Paul Miller Racing will be aiming to improve on its 16th place finish in GTD last year, having retained much of its experienced driver line up. Former Flying Lizard driver Dion von Moltke will partner Audi R8 regulars Christopher Haase, Bryce Miller and René Rast in the #48 entry. At the season opening Roar Before the Rolex 24 test, the Paul Miller Racing squad turned in a best lap time of 1.47.669, which was among the top ten quickest GTD laps of the weekend.
Audi’s presence in American GT racing will once again be strong this year, with five entries in the Pirelli World Challenge adding to the existing TUSCC entries. The continuation of Audi’s sporting success in the United States (in particular at Daytona) will extend the company’s overall popularity, according to Romolo Liebchen.
“Growth potential exists in motorsport as well as for road cars,” says Liebchen. “In the Pirelli World Challenge, in which GT3 cars complying with the complete FIA specification are allowed, five Audi R8 LMS ultra are already fixed for the 2015 season, other teams have shown great interest.”
Flying Lizard Motorsports will follow a limited TUSCC schedule this year, alongside a joint PWC program with McLaren GT3 customer K-PAX. Meanwhile, Paul Miller Racing is expecting to complete the full TUSCC season in the GTD class.