The acid test for the new Audi R8 LMS: The GT sports car will be contesting its first 24-hour race at the Nürburgring from May 16 to 17. Audi is set on continuing the success which the race car achieved on clinching its first victory in the VLN Championship in April. The brand had unveiled the new R8 LMS at the Geneva Motor Show only ten weeks ago.
The 24-hour race at the Nürburgring is regarded as a particularly challenging event. The 25.378-kilometer combination of the Grand Prix circuit and the Nordschleife that was opened in 1927 is the world’s longest race track. Especially the legendary Nordschleife, also known as the ‘Green Hell,’ featuring 73 corners, inclines of up to 17 percent and several changes in the track surface, makes maximum demands on the drivers and the cars.
For the new Audi R8 LMS with its V10 engine now delivering some 500 hp following the most recent changes to the regulations, the classic endurance event in the Eifel marks the fourth race. It had previously been fielded twice in the VLN Endurance Championship and once in the Blancpain Endurance Series. “Now we’re set on proving the competitiveness of the Audi R8 LMS in a 24-hour race,” says Romolo Liebchen, Head of Audi Sport customer racing. “We’re facing a tough practical test at the Nürburgring. To begin with, we need to handle the race distance without any setbacks, plus, like in the years before, the competition is very strong in this race.” In the field of 160 entrants, the Audi teams are pitted against 22 rivals from six other marques in the GT3 category.
Audi Sport Team Phoenix and Audi Sport Team WRT are each fielding two new Audi R8 LMS cars. The Belgian WRT squad that celebrated its first victory in the VLN Endurance Championship in April will be on the grid of the 24-hour race with two cars for the first time. Audi Sport Team Phoenix, based in Meuspath not far from the Nürburgring, has previously won the race with Audi, in 2012 and 2014.
The race will be contested by a high-caliber driver line-up including the 2012 FIA WEC Champion Marcel Fässler (CH), the DTM drivers Mike Rockenfeller (D/Champion 2013) and Nico Müller (CH), the current Blancpain GT Champion Laurens Vanthoor (B) and the German winners of last year’s event at the Nürburgring, Christian Mamerow, René Rast, Frank Stippler and Markus Winkelhock – all of them seasoned endurance racing campaigners.
In addition, two customer teams are relying on the proven Audi R8 LMS ultra that won the 24-hour races in 2012 and 2014. The Audi race experience is fielding two GT sports cars for its customers, one of them with an all-Asian driver line-up. Plus, Twin Busch Motorsport – now for the third consecutive time – will be competing in the ‘Green Hell’ with Audi.