The Audi R8 LMS managed a brilliant 24-hour racing debut by clinching victory at the Nürburgring. Audi only unveiled its GT3 race car ten weeks ago – now the production-based sports car impressed in a tough battle that lasted up to the last hour of the race. In the end, Audi Sport Team WRT with Christopher Mies/Nico Müller/Edward Sandström/Laurens Vanthoor (D/CH/S/B) was 40 seconds faster than the BMW Team Marc VDS.
The battle for victory in the Eifel endurance race has not been as thrilling as this in a long time. During the 24 hours the lead changed 35 times – a record in the event that has been held since 1970. After the race's midpoint, either the number '28' R8 LMS or its fiercest rival was running in front, depending on the pit stop sequence. In the end, the Belgian Audi team prevailed with a concentrated performance of its drivers and solid teamwork. Vincent Vosse's squad and each of the four race drivers celebrated their first victory in this classic event.
“This was a weekend of thrilling racing, as well as an intense and nerve-wracking one," said Romolo Liebchen, Head of Audi Sport customer racing. “Sincere congratulations to our winners who never lost their cool even in the face of some minor irregularities and held up to the pressure. The whole squad of Audi Sport customer racing is happy to see the new R8 LMS instantly delivering on our promise of it being a competitive, attractive and reliable race car our customers can look forward to starting this fall."
Vincent Vosse was delighted about another success of his young team: “We've already won the Spa 24 Hours with Audi and now we achieved success on the Nürburgring as well. My thanks for this go to a motivated squad, four talented drivers and to Audi Sport customer racing for their solid support. We're very happy that we can thank Audi by taking the first 24-hour victory of the new race car."
About 50 percent of the GT3 race car is based on its production counterpart it simultaneously celebrated its debut with in March at the Geneva Motor Show. Four new Audi R8 LMS cars were on the grid of the 24-hour race. Last year's winners Christopher Haase/Christian Mamerow/René Rast/Markus Winkelhock in car number '1' of Audi Sport Team Phoenix led the race several times but were forced to retire following an accident by Christian Mamerow. The German was hospitalized for observation. In the sister car, number '4,' Mike Rockenfeller spun on track due to an oil spill shortly before the race's midpoint. He was hit by another car that was following him, causing damage to the Audi that was too severe for continuing the race.
The second race car of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT saw the checkered flag in seventh place. Accident damage had caused Pierre Kaffer (D) and his team-mates Christer Jöns (D), Nicki Thiim (DK) and Laurens Vanthoor (B) to lose three laps in the early stage. However, with good lap times, this driver quartet proved the competitiveness of the Audi R8 LMS as well.
The time-tested Audi R8 LMS ultra model – the 2012 and 2014 winner of the Nürburgring 24 Hours – completed the good result. Team Twin Busch Motorsport with Dennis Busch/Marc Busch/Christiaan Frankenhout (D/D/NL) saw the finish in 11th place, followed by the Audi race experience. The Asian driver line-up of Franky Congfu Cheng/Marchy Lee/Shaun Thong/Alex Yoong (CN/HK/HK/MAL) achieved 12th place whereas the sister car retired after an accident.
1 Mies/Müller/Sandström/Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS), 156 laps
2 Luhr/Martin/Palttala/Westbrook (BMW) + 40.729s
3 Dumbreck/Henzler/Imperatori/Ragginger (Porsche) – 1 lap
4 Adorf/Catsburg/Farfus/Müller (BMW) – 1 lap
5 Buurman/Al Faisal/Haupt/van Lagen (Mercedes) – 1 lap
6 Cerruti/Edwards/Keilwitz/Laser (BMW) – 3 laps
7 Jöns/Kaffer/Thiim/Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS) – 3 laps
8 Brück/Primat/Schmid/Seefried (Bentley) – 5 laps
9 Buncombe/Hoshino/Krumm/Ordonez (Nissan) – 5 laps
10 Heyer/Huff/Frommenwiler/Krognes (Mercedes) – 5 laps
11 Busch/Busch/Frankenhout (Audi R8 LMS ultra) – 7 laps
12 Cheng/Lee/Thong/Yoong (Audi R8 LMS ultra) – 8 laps