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Audi Impressive in First Rolex Series Test

Audi Impressive in First Rolex Series Test

APR Motorsport - R8 LMS Testing

There were a lot of “ooohs” and “ahhhhs” at Daytona International Speedway when Audi Sport Customer Racing of Germany tested its new Audi R8 GRAND-AM for the first time in America.

Not only did the red, white and blue car look spectacular, it performed flawlessly in the two-day session.

“This was a new experience for us,” said Romolo Liebchen, Audi’s head of customer racing. “This was the first time for Audi at Daytona. We got a lot of good information from Bilstein and our partners, and tried to do some setup at Paul Richard. Obviously, we were not so wrong. I think we are on our way.

“For me, this has always been a dream,” Liebchen added. “I was here the first time in 1999. The name, Rolex 24, for me, it’s one of the most important races, requires the most endurance. I have said we have to come here so that one day we may win this race. Audi must win this race one day, maybe not the first time out, but one day.”

Frank Stippler drove the car throughout the test. He’s no stranger to Daytona, having raced in the 2008 Rolex 24 for Farnbacher Loles Racing.

The car arrived in America on the eve of the test – with the team working on the new car in the parking lot of a nearby hotel on Monday to get it prepared. The preparation paid off, with several prospective customers very impressed with the new car.

“A lot of history is being made here, with the first run for the new Audi,” said APR owner Stephen Hooks. “I’ve spent a lot of time with our German counterparts. They’re working on reliability and gathering a lot of data while learning about the Continental tires. So far, I’ve been really impressed. The reliability has been fantastic and they’ll work on the speed concepts as they move forward.”

Jeff Mishtawy, APR’s director of motorsport, is also eager to work with the new car.

“It’s an unbelievably good-looking car, and it looks even better on the banks of Daytona,” Mishtawy said.

APR Motorsport fielded an Audi S4 in the Grand Sport class of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge in 2011, in addition to fielding Volkswagens in Street Tuner. In addition to mulling a move to the Rolex Series, APR looks to run in both CTSCC classes in 2012.

“Moving to GT would be part of our evolution,” Mishtawy said. “We took the step from ST to GS, and it would be an even bigger step to GT. But I don’t think it’s out of the reach of our team. If it works out, we’ll be focused on trying to make it the biggest success we can.”

Another interested spectator was APR driver Ian Baas, 2006 GT winner of the Rolex 24.

“The car looks great on the track,” Baas said. “It’s definitely going to be a force next year. It’s been very successful over in Europe, and I don’t think it will be any big issue to be quick and a winner over here right out of the box.”

Audi built the new car specifically for the Rolex Series. While it does not plan to run a car in the Rolex 24, it is eager to support any customer teams.

“My feeling is we will have two cars in the Rolex 24,” Liebchen said. “We will try to support them as much as possible so they can get a good result. Two cars would be fine for me.”

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