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Audi R8 LMS wins 24-Hour race at Spa-Francorchamps

Written By Nathen Bridgwater on Sunday, July 31, 2011 | 11:14 AM


24-hour Spa-Francorchamps winners : Matthias Ekström / Greg Franchi / Timo Scheider - #33 Audi R8 LMS - Audi Sport Team WRT

INGOLSTADT/SPA : July 31, 2011 – The Audi R8 LMS won the most important endurance race for GT cars ahead of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Audi Sport Team WRT overcame the strongest competition during the 63rd running of the 24 hours of Spa (Belgium). The two DTM stars Mattias Ekström (Sweden) and Timo Scheider (Germany) and the Belgian endurance specialist Greg Franchi shared driving duties in the victorious mid-engine sportscar.



24-hour Spa-Francorchamps winners : Matthias Ekström / Greg Franchi / Timo Scheider - #33 Audi R8 LMS - Audi Sport Team WRT

Experts agreed before the race started that the endurance classic, held since 1924, had never fielded so many potential winners as this year. A total of 62 cars representing 13 different manufacturers joined the grid, including no less than 57 cars of the worldwide booming GT3 category.

The opening stages of the endurance classic in particular fulfilled expectations. Spectators lining the 7.004 kilometer track and in front of television screens enjoyed tough battles for position, countless overtaking maneuvers, retirements and small and big dramas which are typical for a 24-hour race. The Audi R8 LMS was the fastest car in the field from the very beginning. After just a few hours it was clear that the V10 powered R8 sports cars where the favorites for the victory.

The race of the victorious #33 R8 LMS fielded by Audi Sport Team WRT was particularly impressive. The car driven by Mattias Ekström, Greg Franchi and Timo Scheider ran like clockwork for 24 hours, while many other GT3 cars were no match for the stresses and strains of the hard fought endurance race. The brake discs and pads were changed twice as scheduled. Apart from this, the R8 LMS only entered pit lane to refuel, change tires and to swap drivers. At the start of the tenth hour Ekström/Franchi/Scheider took the lead which they duly held all the way to the checkered flag. At the finish the trio had a two-lap lead over the closest rival.

Audi led 22 of the 24 hours. Just after midnight three R8 LMS actually occupied the first three positions. However, while Audi Sport Team WRT also celebrated fourth overall for the #32 car, Audi Sport Team Phoenix was struck by bad luck.

Marc Basseng, Christopher Haase and Frank Stippler led convincingly for many hours in the #99 R8 LMS and had eked out an advantage of almost an entire lap. Just after 1 a.m. Haase lost first place due to a faulty air jack system. Only an hour later the youngster slid off the track on a damp patch at Turn 9 and had to retire the car.

The #98 sister car was hit by a slower car on the left rear wheel while fighting for the lead towards the end of the third hour. Shortly afterwards second gear was lost. Although they had to continue without second gear as a result and lost additional time due to a puncture, Marcel Fässler, Andrea Piccini and Mike Rockenfeller worked their way back up to third from 13th before a gearbox change was required just after midnight. The change cost 1 hour 36 minutes. The trio still managed to battle their way through the field from 36th to 14th thanks to consistently quick laps and in the process recorded the absolute fastest race lap (Mike Rockenfeller / 2m 20.286s).

The second Audi R8 LMS entered by Audi Sport Team WRT put in two exciting comeback drives. After an accident in qualifying, Stéphane Ortelli scythed spectacularly through the field from 41st to second in the opening 90 minutes, before a drive-through-penalty for contact cost almost a lap. Changing the front left suspension components took 24 minutes and threw the #32 car back to a seemingly hopeless 42nd position. However, Filipe Albuquerque, Bert Longin and Stéphane Ortelli had other ideas, overtook car after car and finished the race in an almost sensational fourth overall. This was the icing on the cake for Audi Sport Team WRT which celebrated an important victory in its first outing as "factory” team for Audi.

"Vincent Vosse’s team really did a fantastic job during its home race,” explained Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "Mattias (Ekström), Greg (Franchi) and Timo (Scheider) drove fast and without mistakes – and it was exactly this that was the key to victory this weekend alongside the reliability and speed of the R8 LMS. Unfortunately out other three cars were rather unlucky and especially Ernst Moser’s squad. That’s why it was almost like Le Mans at the end: After just a few hours we only had one iron still in the fire – but we won with this car. This shows our strong nerves and team spirit because everybody helped to take the win with the only remaining car.”

The Audi R8 LMS, which is supplied to customers by Audi Sport customer racing since last year, notched up win number 96 this weekend. "After three class victories in the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring and the one-two in the 12-hour race at Bathurst at the start of the year, this is without doubt the most important victory for the Audi R8 LMS and our still relatively young customer racing program,” said Werner Frowein who is responsible for the company’s customer racing program as Managing Director of quattro GmbH. "I’d like to thank everybody who worked so hard and with so much commitment to make this victory possible. After Le Mans, Audi now stands in the winners list of another great 24-hour race. We were able to show that the R8 is a fantastic sportscar. Our increasing number of customer teams also confirms this.”

One of these customer teams, United Autosports, contested the 24 hours Spa with three R8 LMS. Following an eventful race with drivers Richard Dean, Zak Brown, Stefan Johansson and Johnny Herbert can be delighted with 13th overall and sixth place in the Pro-Am category.

2011 Total 24-Hour Spa-Francorchamps : Race result


Pos Car Class Drivers Car Time Laps Gap
1 33 PRO Matthias Ekström / Greg Franchi / Timo Scheider Audi R8 LMS 24:01:22.333 545
2 76 PRO Dirk Werner / Edward Sandström / Claudia Hürtgen BMW Z4 24:02:11.126 543 48.793
3 35 PRO Kenneth Heyer / Thomas Jäger / Stéphane Lemeret Mercedes SLS AMG 24:02:07.328 535 44.995
4 32 PRO Filipe Albuquerqe / Bert Longin / Stephane Ortelli Audi R8 LMS 24:01:22.579 534 0.246
5 29 PRO Matteo Bobbi / Frank Kechele / Giacamo Petrobelli Ferrari 458 Italia 24:02:08.636 531 46.303
6 20 PAM Ludovic Badey / Franck Morel / Guliaume Moreau / Jean-Luc Beaubelique Ferrari 458 Italia 24:02:08.095 530 45.762
7 90 PAM David Jones / Godfrey Jones / Mike Jordan Mercedes SLS AMG 24:02:48.174 529 1:25.841
8 3 PRO Yann Clairay / Julien Rodrigues / Pierre Brice Mena Aston Martin DBRS 9 24:03:03.486 527 1:41.153
9 50 PAM Jack Gerber / Matt Griffin / Nicola Cadei / Marco Cioci Ferrari 458 Italia 24:01:24.005 526 1.672
10 43 PAM Jeroen der Boer / Simon Knap / David Hart BMW Z4 24:02:22.158 521 59.825
11 41 PRO Jonathan Hirschi / Markus Palttala / Antoine Leclerc Ford GT 24:03:36.902 521 2:14.569
12 38 PAM Andril Lebed / Bret Curtis / Peter van der Kolk / Jeroen van der Heuve Mercedes SLS AMG 24:03:54.298 518 2:31.965
13 23 PAM Richard Dean / Zakary Brown / Johnny Herbert / Stefan Johansson Audi R8 LMS 24:01:21.702 512 0.631
14 98 PRO Marcel Fässler / Andrea Piccini / Mike Rockenfeller Audi R8 LMS 24:01:22.799 510 0.466
15 4 PRO Frederic Makowiecki / Henri Moser / Stef Dusseldorp Aston Martin DBRS 9 24:02:22.579 510 1:00.246
16 16 PAM Raf Vanthoor / Marius Ritskes / Bernard van Oranje / Dennis Retera Mercedes SLS AMG 24:03:15.492 504 1:53.159
17 19 GEN Brody / Christoff Corten / Mathijs Herkema / Kurt Dujardin Porsche 997 GT3 Cup S 24:01:48.253 493 25.920
18 124 GEN Martin Rich / Tim Bergmeister / Sebastian Asch / Jochen Krumbach Porsche 997 GT3 Cup S 24:03:26.615 493 2:04.282
19 12 PAM Arie Luyendyk / Alain Li / Richard Meins / Henri Richard Audi R8 LMS 23:34:45.942 490 26:36.391
20 79 PAM Oliver Bryant / Alasdair McCaig / Andrew Smith / Joe Twyman Aston Martin DBRS 9 24:03:49.698 489 2:27.365
21 888 PAM Richard Westbrook / Christian Menzel / Mike Stursberg / Hans Guido Riegel Porsche 997 GT3 R 22:16:18.386 485 1:45:03.94
22 63 GT4 Alex Buncombe / Jordan Tresson / Christopher Ward Nissan 370Z 24:03:19.826 476 1:57.493
23 116 GEN Patrick Chaillet / Thierry de Latre du Bosqueau / Benoit Galand / Christoph Dodge Viper GT3 24:03:59.442 473 2:37.109
24 56 Cup Marc Faggionato / Thierry Stepec / Thierry Prignaud / Franck Racinet Porsche 997 GT3 Cup 23:10:05.068 470 51:17.265
25 60 PAM Adam Christodoulou / Glynn Geddie / Phil Quaife / Roger Wills McLaren GT 24:02:44.783 469 1:22.450
26 82 GEN Domenique Nury / Bernard Salam / Jean-Marc Merlin / Guy Clairay Dodge Viper GT3 24:04:12.854 467 2:50.521
27 100 GT4 Christophe Legrand / Raffaelle Sangiuolo / Guiseppe De Pasquale / Wolfgang BMW M3 GT4 24:02:01.694 465 39.361
28 92 PAM Marc Duez / Jean Michel Martin / Eric Bachelart Ford Mustang FR500 24:03:00.210 444 1:37.877
29 57 Cup Manuel Nicolaids / Fabio Spirgi / Richard Feller / Olivier Baron Porsche 997 GT3 Cup 24:02:13.627 442 51.294
30 85 GEN Benjamin Bailly / Julien Schroyen / Jose Close / Raphael van der Straten Ford Mustang FR500 24:03:00.289 437 1:37.956

Images : Audi Motorsport at 24-hour Spa-Francorchamps

    
    
    
    

[Source : AUDI]
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