APR Motorsports Never Says Die At First Rolex 24 at Daytona
Team rallies to see checkered flag in 50th edition of Florida endurance classic
January 29, 2012 (Daytona Beach, Fla.) - It would be fair to say that things didn't go quite to plan for the no. 51 APR Motorsports Audi R8 Grand-Am in its first race - the 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona. Despite two multi-hour stints in the garage to make repairs, the team was determined to see the checkered flag in its first Rolex Series race.
Trouble first hit the Audi R8 just past the two-hour mark when Emanuele Pirro brought the car behind the wall during a full course caution, and the team had to replace the clutch - a big job on the mid-engined Audi R8 Grand-Am. The APR Motorsports team drew a large crowd of spectators in its garage area, which let out a loud cheer when the car was finally lowered back to the ground and sent back into the fray after a two-hour repair.
Worse news would come at 2:15 in the morning, when Nelson Canache was nudged off the track by a Ganassi Racing BMW Riley Daytona Prototype, sending him into the wall on the left side of the track approaching turn three. After another two-hour repair of the right front and right rear suspension of the Audi R8 Grand-Am, the car returned to the track with Dion von Moltke behind the wheel. However, von Moltke quickly brought the car back and further investigation revealed more damage than was originally thought.
The APR Motorsports crew worked through the night - and into the morning - and just after sunrise, the no. 51 Audi R8 Grand-Am returned to the track with Dr. Jim Norman behind the wheel. Norman, Ian Baas, von Moltke, Canache and Pirro cycled through the car until it had to be brought back to the garage to replace a faulty power steering pump.
Performing another miracle, the team rapidly replaced the pump and installed Norman in the car. Driving into the bus stop with a few minutes remaining, broken bodywork due to damage from earlier in the race caused Norman to spin and go off course. Norman was able to return the car to the pits and the team effected repairs and Norman was able to take the checkered flag in 31st position in the GT class.
The team's performance was not enough to secure the second class win for five-time Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro in his second appearance in Daytona, but despite the struggles Pirro enjoyed his time with APR in Daytona.
"The race was a real struggle for everybody, but I really appreciate how the crew and the team worked so hard to keep us going," said Pirro. "It was a really special experience for me to come back and be a part of this race again after thirty one years. To have a good result is of course important, but the whole experience was really, really nice and I have had a very enjoyable time with Audi and APR."
Von Moltke, who will pilot the car for the 2012 Rolex Sports Car Series, takes several positive elements out of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
"Having driven the car throughout the race, I really feel that this is a car that we can win with," said von Moltke. "We came to this race with very little testing time and data, and even though we had some problems we were really happy with the speed we had in the race. Audi and APR will make this car stronger than ever for the next race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. That is APR's home race, and with the support of PR Newswire and South African Airways, we will be looking to have a race that shows the true potential of the car."
Team owner Stephen Hooks, who graduated his team from the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge to the Rolex Series for the first time, left Daytona frustrated with the result but encouraged by the effort of his crew - which worked miracles throughout the race to make sure the no. 51 APR Audi R8 Grand-Am saw the checkered flag.
"We can take two things away from our first Rolex 24 at Daytona," said Stephen Hooks, President and CEO of APR. "Our team can tackle anything that is thrown at them. They worked all night and did an amazing job to repair a substantial amount of damage on our R8. I've been bragging about our crew to everyone on our Live Blog. Under ridiculous circumstances and without any sleep since 6 AM yesterday they have made everybody on this team proud. I told them that we will have better outings and I was thrilled that our car crossed took the checkered flag. Finishing any 24 hour race is no small accomplishment, but when you look at what we were up against this race it is just unbelievable.
"The second thing is the performance of our drivers and our car for this season. We saw a lot of pace out of our Audi R8 Grand-Am, in the hands of all of our drivers. Dr. Jim, Dion, Nelson, Emanuele and Ian all did a great job behind the wheel and all were able to run very competitive times throughout the race. I'm very encouraged by that and I'm looking forward to the rest of the year."
The next race on the Rolex Series schedule is the Porsche 250 at Birmingham Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama on March 31. The race will be shown live on SPEED Channel at 4:00 PM ET.