By Kris Hansen
Upon further review… The powers that be have apparently reversed the decision made during the race, awarding the win back to the Level 5 Ferrari.. Stay tuned for the official press release…
In their first year running the Audi R8 GTD following many successful years with Porsche, the renowned Flying Lizard Motorsport team have won the 2014 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona!
Even though they weren’t on pole, and weren’t consistently the fastest of the Audi R8s throughout the sessions leading up to the Rolex 24 Hours, as the race wore on, they found good speed, and good pace. While bad racing luck befell other Audis – the Fall Line Motorsport suffered a halfshaft failure, and the GMG Racing suffered a bit of a crash, the Flying Lizard car kept its nose mostly clean, and quietly found itself leading the GTD class.
Amazingly enough, some of the best racing in the GTD class came in the last couple of hours. Honestly we’ve come to almost expect this of late, since it seems that most endurance races are 22 hours of keeping the car alive at 9/10ths, and then a couple of hours of 10/10ths running door to door. It happened last year too.
Not that we’re complaining, actually we like the fact that there were Audis running at the end of the race, and being in position to win makes it that much better.
As the hours and laps wore down, the Level 5 Ferrari 458 had an ever shrinking lead over the Lizard R8. It seemed that there was no way the Audi, being driven at this point by Markus Winkelhock, was ever going to actually catch the Ferrari. Then something that only seems to happen in American racing happened. The Weathertech Porsche fell off at the turn 3 hairpin, and nerfed ever so gently into the tires. It managed to get back on the track all on its own, but amazingly they threw out a full course caution. This of course allowed everyone to bunch back up, erasing the Ferrari’s lead over Winkelhock and the Lizard R8. Not that we’re complaining, again this helped the Lizard squad tremendously.
After a few laps of full course caution and the requisite re-arranging of the cars in their running order in class, the green flag flew and the real race was on. 23 hours and a bunch of minutes all gone, and we were sitting on the edge of our seats. Could Winkelhock pull it off? Just when it seemed he would, there was contact between the Audi and a few other cars. Winkelhock was reporting via radio that the steering was off, something was bent. His pace fell off noticeably. Yet amazingly enough, he was able to pick it back up, and stick the red nose of the R8 ahead of the menacing black Ferrari, and actually get into the lead, albeit briefly.
Then “it” happened. It wouldn’t be racing without a pile of controversy, so here we go. Coming out of the turn 3 hairpin on the last lap of the race, Winkelhock put the R8 along the right side of the 458, heading for the LEFTHAND turn 4. As they came through 4, the Ferrari appeared to push wide, forcing the Audi off of the track onto the grass. Winkelhock was able to keep it under control and rejoin the track in second place and bring it around to the checkers.
It was then that the controversy happened. Race Control decided that the incident between the 555 Ferrari and the 45 Audi was “avoidable” contact, and docked the Ferrari, effectively handing the race to the Audi squad.
As Audi fans, we’re really happy. This is a majorly big deal for Audi, winning the Rolex 24 Hours twice in a row is huge. It is also huge for Flying Lizard, since they were essentially dumped by Porsche to win their first time out with the Audi must be a great feeling.
But admittedly, as racing fans, not so much. They say a win is a win, but personally I’m happier when the winning car crosses the line first. We’re not even sure if Level 5 can file a protest, but we’d assume that if they can, they will.
Aside from the controversial nature of the win, the Flying Lizard team has no reason to hang their heads. They brought 2 Audi R8 GTDs home in the top 5 with the #35 sister car coming in 5th. And actually, all of the Audi teams really should be proud. They all showed that the R8 is a genuine contender in this form of racing, as they have proven elsewhere around the globe.