Erratic weather, an extreme pace, tough competition, bitter setbacks and a great triumph: Audi emerged from a genuine emotional roller-coaster ride as victor of the Nürburgring 24 Hours. In the 40th running of the Eifel classic the brand recorded its first overall victory with the new Audi R8 LMS ultra. The German driver quartet Marc Basseng/Christopher Haase/Frank Stippler/Markus Winkelhock shared driving duties in the car entered by Audi Sport Team Phoenix. Christian Abt/Michael Ammermüller/Armin Hahne/Christian Mamerow from Team Mamerow Racing completed the one-two success.
Audi has achieved yet another milestone in endurance racing within just eleven months: in June 2011 the brand celebrated its tenth victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the R18 TDI LMP sports prototype. Last July the customer racing R8 LMS race car also won the 24 hour classic at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for the first time. The Nürburgring triumph now rounds off the endurance record. The competition around the Nordschleife was regarded as a particularly brutal test of endurance this year. The pace of the eight different brands represented in the GT3 class was unusually high, many leading teams were struck by technical defects and numerous accidents whittled the field down still further. While the Audi GT3 race car, which is derived from a production line car, ran technically reliably for 24 hours, the Audi teams did not escape unscathed from accidents either.
In this way, the Audi R8 LMS ultra with start number ‘2’ driven by Christopher Mies at the time was hit by an opponent in the rain while leading. The repairs took 53 minutes and stole any chance of victory from him and his team mates Marcel Fässler and René Rast – they were fifth at the flag. In the night the car with number ‘4’ from Speedhunters Team WRT lost a huge amount of time after a collision with a competitor damaged the steering. The Belgian team finished 32nd. Team Raeder Motorsport held a promising fifth position after 17 hours of racing when Thomas Mutsch was unable to avoid a lapped car as it changed line. After hitting the guardrail any it was impossible to contemplate driving further in start number 9. The Audi race experience finished in 17th place with Christian Bollrath/Pierre Ehret/Peter Venn/Marco Werner. The sister car driven by Luca Cappellari/Florian Gruber/Warren Luff/Alexander Yoong retired due to damage caused in an accident.
In the closing stages the pressure to succeed in the overall classification weighed heavily on the start numbers 3 and 26. Audi Sport Team Phoenix won its home race thanks to a combination of balanced pace, clever driving and reliable pit work. It was overall victory number three for the team from Meuspath and the first with Audi. Almost simultaneously Ernst Moser’s squad clinched third place as best Audi team in the third DTM race at Brands Hatch. Team Mamerow Racing also clinched an excellent result. Team director Peter Mamerow only changed his allegiance to Audi this year. With the support of Audi Sport customer racing the team fielded an R8 LMS ultra with Christian Abt/Michael Ammermüller/Armin Hahne/Christian Mamerow on board. Second overall is richly deserved for the private team from Castrop-Rauxel.
“We are absolutely delighted about this long desired victory,” explained Dieter Gass, Head of Racing Commitments at Audi Sport. “For three years the Audi R8 LMS was always the best GT3 car at the Nürburgring. Now we have taken overall victory in the fight with seven other brands. Over the last 24 hours nothing whatsoever was handed to us on a plate. Our victorious drivers and teams produced a fantastic, consistent and error free performance. My sincerest congratulations go to our winners. This victory in a race car closely related to the production based car once again proves that Audi Sport customer racing provides its customers with a well refined, versatile and successful race car.”
1. Basseng/Haase/Stippler/Winkelhock (Audi R8 LMS ultra), 155 laps
2. Abt/Ammermüller/Hahne/Mamerow (Audi R8 LMS ultra) + 3m 35.303s
3. Frankenhout/Simonsen/Kaffer/Arnold (Mercedes-Benz) + 11m 31.116s
4. Leinders/Palttala/Martin (BMW) – 1 lap
5. Fässler/Mies/Rast/Stippler (Audi R8 LMS ultra) – 4 laps
6. Abbelen/Schmitz/Brück/Huisman (Porsche) – 4 laps
7. Müller/Müller/Alzen/Adorf (BMW) – 5 laps
8. Hürtgen/Schwager/Bastian/Adorf (BMW) – 5 laps
9. Klingmann/Wittmann/Göransson/Lamy (BMW) – 5 laps
10. Zehe/Hartung/Rehfeld/Bullitt (Mercedes-Benz) – 5 laps
(Image: Audi Motorsport)