Audi has clinched two 24-hour race victories so far this year: the iconic sports car race at Le Mans (June 14/15) with the R18 e-tron quattro of Audi Sport Team Joest and, a week later, the endurance race at the Nürburgring with the R8 LMS ultra of Phoenix Racing. At Spa, on July 26/27, the brand will have the opportunity to win a third 24-hour race within the space of just six weeks. In the world’s biggest GT3 race featuring a field of 60 entrants, four teams will be relying on the Audi R8 LMS ultra.
The sports cars of eleven marques will be pitted against each other at Spa. Audi will be meeting with Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Nissan, McLaren, Mercedes and Porsche. All of the race cars are entered in the same technical category – the GT3 class. Consequently, a victory on the challenging Grand Prix circuit in Belgium numbers among the most important single wins a GT race team can achieve anywhere in the world. In 2011, the Audi R8 LMS celebrated its first overall win in the Ardennes and topped it by a one-two in 2012. Last year, André Lotterer/Christopher Mies/Frank Stippler drove an impeccable race but, with a six-lap gap, finished only in third place. The ‘balance of performance’ rating of their R8 according to the regulations, which is typical in GT3 racing, did not permit them to achieve more competitive lap times.
This year, Audi is hoping for a more level playing field in order to have a chance of clinching its third victory at Spa within four years. The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will be competing at Spa with optimum prerequisites. The squad of Vincent Vosse, that clinched Audi’s first success at Spa in 2011, is fielding four R8 LMS ultra cars in its home round. German duo Markus Winkelhock and René Rast, the Nürburgring winners, will be sharing car #1 with the Belgian Laurens Vanthoor, the current FIA GT Champion. Car #2 will be driven by Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer, who in June, decided the Le Mans 24 Hours in their favour for the third time. Taking turns at the wheel of the #3 Audi will be Frank Stippler, the 2012 Spa winner, and his German compatriot Christopher Mies, the 2012 winner of the Blancpain Endurance Series, plus the Briton James Nash. In the Pro-Am category for driver combinations of pros and amateurs, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will be relying on Fred Bouvy, the overall winner in 1999 and 2000, his two Belgian countrymen Vincent Radermecker and Christian Kelders, plus the Frenchman Jean-Luc Blanchemain.
Saintéloc Racing is fielding two other Audi cars. The team from France relies on Stéphane Ortelli (MC), the 2003 Spa winner, Edward Sandström (S), the runner-up in 2011, as well as Grégory Guilvert (F) in car #26. Before the 24-hour race, this trio is placed in third position in the Blancpain Endurance Series and aims to secure further valuable points in the battle for the title at Spa. The #25 sister car will be shared in the Gentlemen Trophy for amateur drivers by the Frenchmen Jean-Paul Buffin, Claude-Yves Gosselin, Philippe Haezebrouck and Marc Rostan. Team Parker Racing will compete in the same category with the Britons Ian Loggie and Julian Westwood, the Swede Carl Rosenblad and the Russian Leonid Machitski. A new Audi customer complements the line-up. ISR from the Czech Republic in its R8 LMS ultra is relying on Filip Salaquarda (CZ) and the two Germans Fabian Hamprecht and Marc Basseng, the 2012 GT1 World Champion.
Audi R8 LMS ultra