Double podium at Sandown wraps up debut Australian GT season for Audi R8 LMS

The rare Audi R8 LMS of Melbourne driver Mark Eddy stormed to a pair of podium finishes in the final round of the Vodka O Australian GT Championship at Melbourne's Sandown Raceway last weekend.

The Penfold Audi Sport-backed coupe, the only Le Mans-specification R8 racing outside Europe or the United Kingdom, finished third in races on Saturday and Sunday against an exotic field of rivals representing Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Lotus, Viper, Corvette, Ascari, Mosler and Nissan.

The result capped a strong debut season for the spectacular Audi, which achieved eight top-10 finishes, a best result of second place and a 100 percent reliability record.

Eddy was part of a torrid qualifying battle on Saturday. Despite finishing seventh, his time was just 0.65 seconds off pole position and under the qualifying lap record.

"Qualifying was very close. The Audi was flying but the session finished before we could put down another good time," the 2008 Australian GT Champion said.

That form was confirmed in the race, when in just 12 laps Eddy overtook O'Connor (Lotus), Freestone (Corvette), Hill (Lamborghini) and Cini (Porsche) before cruising home in third.

Race two on Sunday ran over a shortened distance of 20 laps punctuated by two safety-car periods, which denied Eddy a chance of improving on his third position.

"I was on the pace with James Koundouris' Porsche in second place and looking forward to the end of the race when the Audi's tyres usually come into their own," Eddy said.

"Unfortunately for us the safety car allowed them to save their tyres a bit and there just wasn't time to haul in the two cars ahead."

With its distinctive sound and looks, the 500 horsepower V10 Audi has been one of the most popular cars on the Australian GT scene this year as it tackled the circuits at Mount Panorama, Adelaide Parklands, Albert Park, Eastern Creek and Sandown.

"The car turns a lot of heads. It looks and sounds like a real race car though in fact it has virtually a standard road car engine," Eddy said.

"It's awesome to drive. It looks after its tyres better than anything else in the GT field, has a great gearbox and carbon brakes.

"We were the first Audi customer to run an R8 LMS outside Europe and I think we've done pretty well in our first season. We've picked up a lot of data and I'm already looking forward to next season, especially if there are some longer races."

Penfold Audi, one of Australia's leading Audi dealerships, will continue its partnership with Mark Eddy's Audi R8 LMS and the Vodka O Australian GT Championship in 2011.

-source: penfold