CRAIG LOWNDES TEAMS WITH AUDI FOR ARMOR ALL BATHURST 12 HOUR
REIGNING BATHURST 1000 CHAMPION Craig Lowndes will headline a two-car team entered for the 2011 Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour by Audi Race Experience Team Joest.
Two 2010 specification Audi R8 LMS vehicles have been confirmed with one car filled with leading Australian Drivers and the other a diverse group of experienced internationals.
Five-time Bathurst champion Lowndes will be joined in Car No. 7 by Australian GT Championship regular Mark Eddy - the only man to own and race the V10 powered Audi R8 LMS outside of Europe - and V8 Supercar driver Warren Luff.
The 'International' car will be steered by Canadian born, Hong Kong World Touring Car Championship driver Darryl O'Young, along with German Sportscar ace Marc Basseng and 21-year-old 2009 FIA GT3 European Champion Christopher Heis.
"Racing in the Bathurst 12 Hour has been on the 'to-do' list for some time," Lowndes said.
"Team Joest and Audi Sport have a reputation for being the best in the business, much like Team Vodafone in V8 Supercars, so when they rang it was impossible to say no! I'm excited to be joining the works Audi team for this race and to be teaming up with some great drivers like Mark and Warren.
"The R8 looks like a fantastic car and I can't wait to get behind the wheel in February. Long distance racing is a great challenge, especially when you get to an amazing track like Bathurst, and it's a challenge I'm looking forward to. It should be a great race."
Mark Eddy, who took his Audi R8 to 6th in the Australian GT title race, said his prior relationship with Audi was helpful in coordinating the Bathurst attack.
"Having the first R8 LMS outside of Europe worked well. I have been in constant communication with Audi and they showed a desire to come to Australia to potentially sell some cars," he explained.
"When I got the heads up they wanted to come to Bathurst it all came together from there."
Eddy said he was looking forward to watching Lowndes and Luff adapt to the R8 after years of driving V8 Supercars.
"It's going to be interesting to see Craig and Warren adapt to the car. I think they will find them really enjoyable and much easier to drive compared to the V8 Supercar. We have had V8 drivers in our cars before and they all think the GT cars stop better, turn better and have better visibility so it should be a great experience for them.
"I think they will have a great time."
Eddy's 2009-spec vehicle will be on display throughout the Event and his own Australian crew will likely assist the German outfit and provide logistical support throughout their stay in Australia.
11-time LeMans winning Team Joest grew their partnership with Audi this year to manage the German marquee's customer racing program, allowing customers to race with the support of arguably the world's most successful sports car team.
The relationship delivered immediate success with an Audi R8 LMS finishing second in the Sepang 12 hour race in Malaysia held earlier this year, with Bathurst pilot O'Young one of the three drivers.
"Having a team of this calibre commit to the Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour with two cars is a fantastic show of support for the Event," Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour Event Director James O'Brien said.
"I was fortunate enough to see the Audi team in action at Sepang (Malaysia) earlier this year and they are hugely professional as you would expect. Their participation is sure to bring further international exposure to the Event and we look forward to welcoming the team and drivers to the Mountain in February."
The two car Audi team joins vehicles already entered from renowned brands like BMW, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Mosler and Porsche in what is set to be a hugely competitive return to GT endurance racing on the Mountain.
Nominated drivers currently include names like John Bowe, Dean Fiore, David Reynolds and Steve Owen.
The 2011 Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour is set to be the best yet and will include a broader vehicle eligibility list.
GT vehicles will join with production vehicles in 2011, with a total of 31 manufacturers eligible to compete in the around-the-clock Enduro at Mount Panorama from 4 to 6 February 2011.
Historic Group N Touring Cars, Group C&A Historic Touring Cars, Improved Production, HQ Holden's and Formula Vee will feature throughout Friday and Saturday's action, ensuring a racing program that caters to nearly every type of Australian Motorsport fan.