Though the weather may have been unseasonably cold in Daytona this past week, the outlook for the inaugural 2014 season of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship looks quite good.
The crowd and the overall energy at the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona was at a rate higher than most remember, and the race itself was action-packed, with surprisingly close competition given the series organizers had all-new classes, specs and cars to contend with.
From the very first moment the Audi R8 road car had been conceived, the minds at Audi intended to take it racing. Then, as planned, the first GT3-spec cars hit the track in 2009. By 2012 it landed in the GRAND-AM, though redeveloped to meet that series’ regulations. And, though challenged in pace when built to this new spec, the car fought hard and won last year’s Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona in blistering performances by car, drivers and team.
This year the R8 GRAND-AM morphs to the R8 LMS GTD spec and gets some notable changes. These include a new front splitter, new rear diffusor, new rear wing and the addition of fixed windows. Each of these serve to improve the R8’s aerodynamic performance… qualities that will help it all season, but in particular on the high banks of Daytona.
Out of the box in Daytona, the Audi R8 LMS’s performance looks more like what we’re accustomed to seeing in Europe and Asia. Several successful GT teams including Flying Lizard Motorsports and Paul Miller Racing have switched to Audi, and join the returning Fall-Line Motorsports as well as GMG Racing who’s been fielding the R8 LMS over in the Pirelli World Challenge.
If last weekend’s Rolex 24 is anything by which to judge, Audi Sport customer racing is bound to enjoy a very competitive season this year. The weekend began with Paul Miller Racing nabbing pole position for the newly-formed GTD class. Once the green flag dropped, the Flying Lizards played long-ball strategy, starting mid pack and working up to a hard fight for the class win by race end. To say the outcome of the race came down to the final seconds would be an understatement and it seems, in Daytona at least, they’ll have to settle for second.
Next up is Sebring, and Audi has a long history there with many LMP wins in the ALMS. The Flying Lizards have also enjoyed a long and successful run on that particular piece of tarmac, including hard fought final laps with Ferraris as witnessed in 2007. No doubt we’ll see some spectacular racing there, and on through the rest of the season. Bring on the 12 Hours!