Ninth Victory for Audi at 12 Hours of Sebring
The Audi R15 TDI® was not only the most reliable and fastest prototype on its debut but also the most efficient: Audi celebrated a clear 1-2 victory in the so-called “Michelin Green X Challenge” in which the fuel consumption is measured in relation to the performance.
This year saw the fastest 12 Hours of Sebring race ever, Audi Sport Team Joest’s pair of Audi R15 TDI® prototypes ran the entire distance without technical problems despite the innovative Le Mans prototype having only completed its maiden run in December. Bad weather had hampered Audi Sport’s test program and temperatures never exceeded 59 degrees during the tests in Europe.
At 12 Hours of Sebring this year, the Audi crew faced ambient temperatures almost double that and worked day and night to learn more about the new diesel sports car and to adapt it to the extremely bumpy race track in the center of Florida. They were able to solve all minor teething troubles which arose just in time for race day.
In the race the new Audi R15 TDI® proved fast from the very beginning: Allan McNish (GB) outpaced the pole sitting Acura/Honda at the start completing the first lap with more than five seconds advantage. Later, however, it was not the Acura/Hondas which were the cars to beat but the two Peugeot 908s. The lead swapped no fewer than twelve times among the diesel-powered prototypes from Audi and Peugeot. Over long periods of the race, the four leading prototypes were covered by just a few tenths of a second.
In the exciting final stages of the race Allan McNish (GB) was able to fully exploit the optimized weight distribution and the sophisticated aerodynamics of the new R15 TDI® compared to its predecessor, the R10 TDI®. He was able to open such a big lead that he was able to stop for a ‘splash-and-dash’ just before the end of the race without losing the lead. He eventually crossed the finish line 22.279 seconds in front of the second placed Peugeot.
Perfect Debut of the Audi R15 TDI®
It was the ninth overall victory for the Audi brand at Sebring continuing an impressive series: After the Audi R8 (2000) and the Audi R10 TDI® (2006) a new Le Mans prototype from Audi drove to victory in its debut race at Sebring for the third time. Tom Kristensen (DK) scored his fifth victory in the US endurance classic becoming the most successful driver in the history of the race. Dindo Capello (I) won at Sebring for a fourth time with Allan McNish (GB) chalking up his third victory.
The Audi success at Sebring was completed by the three Germans Lucas Luhr (D), Mike Rockenfeller (D) and Marco Werner (D) finishing third at the wheel of the second Audi R15 TDI®. Luhr (D) and Rockenfeller (D) had to complete almost the whole race on their own after Marco Werner (D) had to be sidelined due to a rib injury. They kept contact with the leading sister car for a long time. Only in the final stages did they drop back due to extreme pick-up on the front right tire which forced Lucas Luhr (D) to pit an extra time just before the end of the race. It was the only unscheduled pit stop of the day for Audi Sport Team Joest.
For Audi, the 12 Hours of Sebring was a dress rehearsal for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in which a total of three new R15 TDI® prototypes will compete. An intensive test program is scheduled for Audi Sport Team Joest until the race on June 13/14.
Dress Rehearsal for Le Mans
The 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida, which attracted more than 170,000 spectators last year and which simultaneously acts as a dress rehearsal for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, is one of the most important endurance races in the USA: The track built on a former airfield is regarded as being particularly hard on material. “If a car has any weaknesses these will be exposed mercilessly at Sebring,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “If a car holds together at Sebring you can then go to Le Mans with a relatively clear conscience.”
Every new Le Mans prototype from AUDI AG has celebrated its race debut on the track in the heart of Florida. Audi’s first ever sports car race ended with Audi Sport Team Joest clinching a podium finish for the Audi R8R in its first race. A year later the Audi R8 won on its debut at Sebring. On its premiere in 2006 the R10 TDI® provided Audi with the first victory worldwide for a diesel sports car in an important endurance race.
© RIF/Audi Motorsport Canada