Second consecutive victory for Audi at Daytona

Perfect debut for the new U.S. version of the Audi R8 LMS and the new Audi customer team Flying Lizard Motorsports: Nelson Canache jr. (YV), Tim Pappas (USA), Spencer Pumpelly (USA) and Markus Winkelhock (D) decided the inaugural race of the new Tudor United SportsCar Championship (TUSC) in their favor in a photo finish.

With 29 GT sports cars running, the GT Daytona (GTD) category featured the largest number of entrants in the field and was the most fiercely fought class in the iconic U.S. endurance race. The positions at the front kept changing and the customer teams of Audi, Porsche and Ferrari had chances of taking class victory up to the very end.

Following a late safety car period, the spectators experienced a final seven-minute sprint in which Markus Winkelhock, in a tough duel, prevailed against the Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi, which had been leading up to that point. The Ferrari driver fiercely defended himself against the faster Audi R8 LMS and retroactively received a 75-second time penalty for his action.  

“This was an incredible race, I’m absolutely speechless,” said Romolo Liebchen, Head of Audi Sport customer racing. “I can understand the disappointment of the Ferrari team. But I share the opinion of the race stewards that Alessandro Pier Guidi went a bit overboard in his defense on the last laps. Markus was simply faster. On the whole, it was a great entrance for the new U.S. version of the Audi R8 LMS. We put a fast and reliable car for the new GTD class into the hands of our customer teams. Flying Lizard and the four drivers of the winning car made the best of it. Many thanks to all who made this fantastic success possible.”

Following a restrained start and a few minor issues in the beginning, the new Californian Audi customer team launched an impressive recovery during the night that made the red-silver #45 R8 LMS advance position by position and rewarded the squad with its first lead on Sunday morning.  

Filipe Albuquerque (P), Alessandro Latif (GB/I), Seth Neiman (USA) and Dion von Moltke (USA) showed a similarly strong performance as their team-mates and in the team’s sister car captured fifth place in class. After 24 hours, the quartet was trailing its victorious team-mates by only one lap.

The squad of Paul Miller Racing was beaten below its potential. Matt Bell (GB), Christopher Haase (D), Bryce Miller (USA) and René Rast (D) started the race from the pole position and set the pace for long periods during the first twelve hours. They lost their chances for victory during the night due to a water leak. After several longer pit stops, Paul Miller Racing had to settle for 16th place in class. A bit of consolation: Christopher Haase, after clinching the pole position on Thursday, also managed setting the fastest race lap of 1m 47.194s.

The two Audi R8 LMS cars of the Fall-Line Motorsports and GMG Racing teams did not make it to the finish. After just five laps, Charlie Putman (USA/Fall-Line Motorsports) on braking into Turn 1, lost control of his Audi in the fastest section of the track and spun backwards into a concrete wall. The rear-end section of the R8 LMS was irreparably damaged in the incident.

James Sofronas (USA/GMG Racing) was touched by an LMPC sports car in Turn 1 at the beginning of the seventh hour. The American spun off track and hit the wall of the pit lane exit head-on. Sofronas, like Putman, sustained no injuries but his R8 LMS was so heavily damaged that a trackside repair was impossible.

Quotes by the victorious Audi drivers

Nelson Canache jr.: “Flying Lizard Motorsports gave us four drivers a fantastic car. We weren’t the quickest in qualifying but all along we felt we had a fast and reliable car for a 24-hour race. We were really tight on fuel at the end. It was a magnificent team performance.”

Tim Pappas: “I was a late addition to the driver squad, so I’m literally stunned to have scored my first Daytona victory. It was a privilege for me to watch Markus (Winkelhock) and Spencer (Pumpelly) as team-mates. Nelson (Canache jr.) and I did what was required of us in keeping safe and bringing the Audi back in one piece in our stints.”

Spencer Pumpelly: “This will always be the most memorable of my three Daytona wins. Watching the final 20 minutes was nail-biting and Markus (Winkelhock) did a fantastic job. Daytona was an enormous challenge for the Flying Lizard team with the new car and they did a phenomenal job. We had a fantastic car which allowed us to score an important win.”  

Markus Winkelhock: “It was an incredible last lap.  I left plenty of space for him to turn in at the kink but on the exit he left me no space and pushed me into the grass. I think the officials made the correct decision. Last year, I fought for the GT class win but ran out of fuel on the last lap, so it’s great to come back twelve months later and win.”

Race results (GT Daytona class)

1 Canache jr./Pappas/(Pumpelly/Winkelhock (Audi R8 LMS) 662 laps in 24h 01m 19.953s
2 Snow/Heylen/Seefried (Porsche) + 0.159s
3 Rotenberg/Zlobin/Mediani/Salo/Aleshin (Ferrari) + 13.919s
4 Tucker/Sweedler/Bell/Segal/Pier Guidi (Ferrari) + 1m 43.707s
5 Albuquerque/Latif/Neiman/von Moltke (Audi R8 LMS) – 1 lap

16 Bell/Haase/Miller/Rast (Audi R8 LMS) – 36 laps

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