Audi Motorsport went to the NÃ¼rburgring 24 hour race this year with high hopes. Four new R8 LMS GT3 category racers were entered with some of the sport’s biggest names at the wheel. To subject the new racecars to such a tough test was a big commitment.
This commitment almost paid the most handsome dividends with the #99 Phoenix Racing entry coming close to posting a maiden victory. It lead the race for almost 17 hours before a drive shaft problem with five hours to go saw them lose valuable time. Despite this, the car was still able to finish strongly in fifth position overall.
However, so well placed were the big R8s that the #97 Abt Sportline car was able to claim an impressive podium finish, coming home in second position, behind NÃ¼rburgring 24 hour race specialists Manthey Racing. Running in the SP9 GT3 class the Abt Sportline machine, driven by Christian Abt, Jean-FranÃ§ois Hemroulle, Pierre Kaffer and Lucas Luhr, finished two laps ahead of its nearest rival, a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, to win its class. In doing so, they completed 154 laps, which broke the previous distance record for laps completed in the 24 hour race by three laps. They were on the lead lap nearing race end, too, before an uncacnny tactical move saw the winning Manthey car squeeze in one more lap.
The #98 and #100 cars suffered some issues throughout the race, but were still able to finish in good form, crossing the line in positions 12 and 23 respectively. When you consider the #100 car suffered its problems very early on in the race, to finish in the top 25 after coming back from 166th was a great result.
Head of Audi Motorsport, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, was well pleased with the outcome, “For the Audi R8 LMS, this race was a final test under extreme conditions on the worldâ€™s longest race track. We were able to show that our new GT3 sports car is absolutely competitive for customer sport. And the number 97 Audi R8 LMS ran without the slightest problems despite the incredibly high speed. We’re going to analyze the problems that occurred on the other three vehicles and feed the findings into the final version of the R8 LMS to be delivered to customers starting this fall. We know that we’ve got a very good base.”
Another huge image gallery of over 80 images can be viewed below, along with press statements from all the teams. For an excellent summary of all Audis competing at the NÃ¼rburgring 24 hour race this year check out Fourtitude.com.
Audi R8 LMS successfully passes ultimate endurance test
- All four vehicles finish 24-hour race on the NÃ¼rburgring
- Runner-up in first 24-hour commitment
- Winner in GT3-class right from the start
Ingolstadt/NÃ¼rburg â€“ The new GT3 sports car of AUDI AG successfully passed the ultimate endurance test: In the fastest 24-hour race the NÃ¼rburgring has ever seen, all four Audi R8 LMS cars that started to the race crossed the finish line. Christian Abt, Jean-FranÃ§ois Hemroulle, Pierre Kaffer and Lucas Luhr (Team ABT Sportsline) clinched an unexpected second place in front of 235,000 spectators (throughout the weekend) and grabbed victory right away in the GT3 class for the Audi R8 LMS at its first 24-hour run.
“For the Audi R8 LMS, this race represented a final test under extreme conditions on the worldâ€™s longest race track,â€ said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “We were able to demonstrate that our new GT3 sports car is absolutely competitive for customer sport. And the number 97 R8 LMS ran without the slightest problems despite the incredible speed.â€
Up to a few hours before the finish there was even a sensation in the air at the NÃ¼rburgring: Marc Basseng, Mike Rockenfeller and Frank Stippler in the Audi R8 LMS #99 of Team Phoenix Racing were leading the race for almost 17 hours before the car â€“ at 11:21 am in the Karussell circuit sector â€“ stopped due to a defect in the power transmission system. After replacing the right rear suspension and the drive shaft, the three Germans were able to continue the race with a six-lap gap and â€“ in the end â€“ managed clinching the fifth place.
Frank Biela, Marcel FÃ¤ssler, Emanuele Pirro and Hans-Joachim Stuck (Audi R8 LMS #98/Phoenix Racing) in twelfth place merely missed a place among the top ten. A stop-and-go penalty cost the seasoned campaigners three minutes as early as in the starting phase. During the night a leaking cooler of the power steering system had to be exchanged, which cost about 30 minutes. At noon on Sunday, car number 98 was back in the top six before the gearbox had to be replaced.
Mattias EkstrÃ¶m, Timo Scheider and Marco Werner (Aud R8 LMS #100/Team ABT Sportsline) suffered a particular case of misfortune. Their vehicle was hit in the rear right at the start, crushing the right-hand tailpipe in the process. Shortly afterwards, the engine stopped. After an extensive effort to find the source of the problem, the mechanics discovered a defective plug which had caused a short circuit and resulted in an overloading of the CAN bus on-board system.
From 166th place, EkstrÃ¶m, Scheider and Werner recovered to 23rd despite stopping a second time on the Nordschleife during the night due to a fuel supply system problem and, later, a component of the right rear suspension had to be fixed.
“Weâ€™ll analyze the problems that occurred on the three other vehicles and feed the findings into the final version of the R8 LMS, which will be delivered to customers starting this fall,â€ said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “We now know that weâ€™ve got a very good base.â€
“None of us really expected us to immediately clinch a podium result here,â€ said Audi “factoryâ€ driver Lucas Luhr after the finish of the race. “Putting a new car on the podium in its first run at a 24-hour race is an achievement youâ€™ve simply got to take your hat off to.â€
Quotes after the 24-hour race on the NÃ¼rburgring
Ingolstadt/NÃ¼rburg â€“ All four Audi R8 LMS cars saw the checkered flag at their maiden run in the 24-hour race on the NÃ¼rburgring. Christian Abt, Jean-FranÃ§ois Hemroulle, Pierre Kaffer and Lucas Luhr (Team ABT Sportsline) finished as the overall runners-up and clinched victory in the GT3 class. Quotes after the race.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “For the Audi R8 LMS, this race was a final test under extreme conditions on the worldâ€™s longest race track. We were able to show that our new GT3 sports car is absolutely competitive for customer sport. And the number 97 Audi R8 LMS ran without the slightest problems despite the incredibly high speed. Weâ€™re going to analyze the problems that occurred on the other three vehicles and feed the findings into the final version of the R8 LMS to be delivered to customers starting this fall. We know that weâ€™ve got a very good base.â€
Hans-JÃ¼rgen Abt (Team Director Team ABT Sportsline): “I think this is a sensational result for Audi as well as for us. We knew that weâ€™d be competing with very tough rivals. For 24 hours, it was an incredibly close race. Achieving such a result with the R8, the new vehicle, on the Nordschleife at the worldâ€™s toughest race as itâ€™s called, is a feat on which you can only congratulate everyone who was involved in developing this car.â€
Ernst Moser (Teamchef Phoenix Racing): “We didnâ€™t dominate the race but experienced a duel. But most of the time we were in front. It was tremendously exciting and enjoyable. Unfortunately, the â€˜defect devilâ€™ struck once. But now thatâ€™s water down the river. We need to learn from our mistakes and then weâ€™ll be at the very top. The car can do it, the team can do it, and the brand can do it. So weâ€™ll be able to do it too.â€
Christian Abt (Audi R8 LMS #97/Team ABT Sportsline): “Iâ€™m very proud because Iâ€™ve been involved in the GT3 vehicle development from the outset. Being one of the drivers standing on the podium at the 24-hour race is really special. Iâ€™m totally happy. Weâ€™ve said from the beginning that weâ€™d opt for a strategy. Thatâ€™s exactly what we did and always remained within a striking distance nevertheless. Weâ€™re totally happy with second place.â€
Jean-FranÃ§ois Hemroulle (Audi R8 LMS #97/Team ABT Sportsline): “We maintained a constant pace throughout the race. I think that was the right decision. The car was always in perfect condition. Clinching podium here at the first run of the R8 LMS is a perfect start for Audi.â€
Pierre Kaffer (Audi R8 LMS #97/Team ABT Sportsline): “Weâ€™re very happy. Audi created a very good base for the R8. The ABT Sportsline team converted it into action in a superb way. I can only thank Audi and ABT for letting me take part in this project at this fantastic race. It was a tremendous experience driving the same car with such great teammates. The entire crew did a great job. I thank everyone very much for this.â€
Lucas Luhr (Audi R8 LMS #97/Team ABT Sportsline): “Iâ€™m overwhelmed, totally happy and really have goose bumps. This is really a great result for us. Itâ€™s too bad that the other cars had problems. I think that second place is a great achievement by Audi, the ABT team and my driver colleagues. Itâ€™s really wonderful being a part of this squad. Now, Iâ€™m looking forward to the next 24-hour race with Audi at Le Mans.â€
Frank Biela (Audi R8 LMS #98/Phoenix Racing): “The result is completely okay. I think we can be very happy with our performance. The number 99 car was able to keep the pace for a long time and even set it as the leading vehicle. That was very important for us. Alright, so we had a couple of problems with our new cars, but letâ€™s face it, itâ€™s a 24-hour race. We all know how hard the Nordschleife is on the cars. Second place at such a race is a fantastic achievement. Thatâ€™s something you can definitely build on.â€
Marcel FÃ¤ssler (Audi R8 LMS #98/Phoenix Racing): “Unfortunately, we had a stop-and-go penalty early on that set us back. During the night we had a cooling problem and then we had to change the transmission as well. That was probably not the best situation. But the base exists in any event. Audiâ€™s got a very good and very fast car. I hope theyâ€™ll be here again next year.â€
Emanuele Pirro (Audi R8 LMS #98/Phoenix Racing): “This was a very nice weekend for me. I returned to the Nordschleife after 18 years. It was a lot of fun. I had to learn the track again from scratch. But during the race I felt very comfortable in this car. The positive aspect of the race is that the car proved its speed and competitiveness from the get-go. Of course a few minor problems still need to be resolved but for us it was a development race. Weâ€™ve always said that. Weâ€™re taking a task list with us from this race and loads of information. In the end, all four cars finished. On the whole, we can be happy.â€
Hans-Joachim Stuck (Audi R8 LMS #98/Phoenix Racing): “Audi deserves a compliment for a car that made it possible to fight for overall victory right from the start. That this didnâ€™t work out completely is nothing to be ashamed of. Coming to the â€˜Green Hellâ€™ â€“ which everyone knows is the toughest test for a new car – with a new car and finishing as the runner-up almost equates to victory. The important thing was the experiences we gained, which Audi Sport can now feed into the customer cars. The whole project was a customer sport run in keeping with the motto â€˜100 years of Audi â€“ Vorsprung durch Technik.â€™”
Marc Basseng (Audi R8 LMS #99/Phoenix Racing): “Today we showed that Audi is a serious contender on the Nordschleife. Iâ€™m pleased that I had the chance to contribute my endurance experience from the NÃ¼rburgring. The way I was welcomed to this family was sensational. Iâ€™m happy for ABT to have clinched podium. Of course thereâ€™s also a feeling of disappointment because our car was so powerful in the end that weâ€™d definitely have had our say in the fight for victory as well.â€
Mike Rockenfeller (Audi R8 LMS #99/Phoenix Racing): “We had a great weekend. Qualifying was already very good and the race was great as well. We were able to keep the pace of the front runners at all times and also led the race for many hours. Unfortunately, we then had a problem with the drive shaft and only finished fifth. Thatâ€™s too bad because I think we were the fastest Audi in the race. For me, this was my debut on the Phoenix team and it was a lot of fun. My thanks go to the whole squad.â€
Frank Stippler (Audi R8 LMS #99/Phoenix Racing): “I think we did a decent job. Due to poor weather conditions the car did not have the chance to run as much on the Nordschleife before the race as weâ€™d wanted it to so the race turned into a real test. Considering this, we delivered a good showing and led the field for a long time. In second place, the Abt car is close to the optimum. We know what we need to do to improve for next year. The race was planned as a test and on the whole we can be happy with the way things went.â€
Mattias EkstrÃ¶m (Audi R8 LMS #100/Team ABT Sportsline): “Driving the R8 on this track is fantastic. Of course there are always a few minor things that can be improved but, basically, the R8 already represents â€˜Vorsprung durch Technikâ€™ in an impressive way. Of course I had different expectations of the race than getting stranded right on the first lap. More importantly, though, Iâ€™m happy about the podium result of our “sister carâ€ because I know exactly how much work and passion has been invested in this project.â€
Timo Scheider (Audi R8 LMS #100/Team ABT Sportsline): “We saw that itâ€™s possible to clinch a podium place with the Audi R8 LMS right away. At such a high racing speed, this is a sensational result for us. I want to thank Audi for enabling us to fight for podium as early as at this debut race because that was not to be expected. Iâ€™m overjoyed that our “sister carâ€ made it on the podium as the runner-up. Weâ€™re going to analyze the information and data so that next year weâ€™ll come back even stronger.â€
Marco Werner (Audi R8 LMS #100/Team ABT Sportsline): “We were incredibly happy to come back to the Nordschleife. Driving here is fun, especially if youâ€™ve got a car like the R8 LMS. It showed its potential. Unfortunately, we had a little too much bad luck. But you also need to be honest about it: the car has never run across such a distance in one go. As is often the case with Audi, it was probably a very good test run.â€