The roar of the 24 sounded a bit different on this 50th anniversary of the Rolex Grand-AM series, with the introduction of two v10 powered Audi R8s.
Audi Sport customer racing with head engineer Brad Kettler was in attendance to support their new racing program with two powerful 480 hp R8 GT cars, both of which celebrated a premier race in the demanding conditions.
Among forty four GT race cars, two Audi Customer Racing teams – APR Motorsport and Oryx Racing – began the race well, with Oryx early on having a slight lead over APR until a failed clutch forced Oryx to the garage for repairs. In less than ten minutes time, APR followed behind with the same clutch related issue. Both teams raced to repair/replace the failed clutch for first placement back in the race. APR also endured a power steering issue, which caused even more down time.
Both teams yielded consistent lap times throughout the course of the race, though it would appear that the Audi engine and aero packages are restricted somewhat compared to their competitors based on top speeds and lap times. Team Oryx was driven by with Humaid Al Masaood (UAE)/Saeed Al Mehairi (UAE)/Steven Kane (GB) and APR drivers including Ian Baas (USA)/Nelson Canache (YV)/Dion von Moltke (ZA)/Dr. Jim Norman (USA)/Emanuele Pirro (I) were also present.
As day turned to night and temperatures dropped into the mid forties, both teams found traction a challenge, which resulted in multiple spins, near misses, and not so near misses, though luckily no heavy damage to either R8s.
When asked about his overall experience at the 24 hours race, Oryx team principal and driver commented “Overall we are very pleased with the result in qualifying. We have had very little running since we took delivery of the car at the beginning of the month so there are a lot of variables we are working with, a new car, a new circuit, a banked section to that circuit and of course a new driver in the team, Saeed al Mehairi. I am delighted with the way the team have responded to some many simultaneous challenges and we have out qualified the other Audi R8 team, APR, so that is very satisfying.”
Overall, Team APR (31st place) and Oryx Racing (32nd) classified at the finish in succession. In looking forward to the 2012 Grand-AM season, both teams have their work cut out for them to leave a mark on this historic race series. We have no doubt that Audi Customer Racing, APR and Oryx will together reign in a successful year in the Grand-AM series with a bit more experience… We plan to be there every step of the way.