The Audi R8 Grand-Am was said to have successfully passed its baptism by fire when the newly developed racecar was fine-tuned on the famous Daytona race track during its final tests last week.
This is the first time the R8 customer car has been developed specifically for the American motorsport series by Audi Sport customer. As a result of the positive feedback, the first cars will be delivered to customers by January 2012.
The new Audi R8 Grand-Am is based on the successful Audi R8 LMS that scored more than 110 victories and 13 titles.
From the GT3 racecar, quattro GmbH developed a vehicle for the Grand Touring class of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and subjected it to final testing at Daytona.
Following track tests in Europe, the R8 Grand-Am features significant modifications compared to the GT3 version. It was these revisions that underwent final testing at Daytona.
On the two test days, Frank Stippler completed about 600 miles in the test car sporting a distinctive stars-and-stripes design. The Daytona International Speedway is the venue for the first race of the season, the Daytona 24 Hours on January 28-29, at which the customers cars will compete in the R8.
The Grand-Am version differs from the GT3 model and required a fundamentally new set-up. Downforce, for instance, is drastically lower, with about 75% of its aerodynamic grip lost to Grand-Am regulations that prescribe all modified body components.
The new front splitter, for example, can only protrude from the front by 38mm. The front underbody must be flat. The rear diffuser should correspond to the production car, while the regulation rear wing is considerably slimmer than the R8 LMS.
"The lower aerodynamic forces also require modified damper characteristics and softer spring rates," explained Armin Plietschfrom from quattro GmbH. In addition, the regulations prescribe a ride height of 65mm - about 10mm higher than the minimum in the FIA GT series.
At Daytona, Audi familiarized itself with the Continental slick tires prescribed by the series’ exclusive tire supplier. The GTR (for road courses) and GTO (for oval tracks) tires influenced suspension set-ups as well. ABS and traction control, which are standard equipment on the Audi R8 LMS, had to be deactivated for Grand-Am. The optimised radiator package Audi developed for the R8 LMS ultra is also used in the R8 Grand-Am.
"We successfully tested all the modifications at Daytona," said Romolo Liebchen from quattro GmbH. "With Frank Stippler we developed a solid set-up for our customers and gathered valuable findings in the endurance tests. The durability of parts and the high ambient temperatures created high demands. We can now provide our racing customers with concrete advice and reference values for their cars."
The rating of the Audi R8 Grand-Am is still undecided. By January, a balance of performance is to be achieved between the various vehicles in the GT class. Audi has made one of the 5.2-liter V10 FSI engines available to the series’ engineers for a performance analysis. The engine’s output and homologation weight will only be defined once this rating is available.
One of the customer teams for the 2012 season has already been determined. APR Motorsport from Opelika, AL will be the first team to field the Audi R8 Grand-Am. The squad is planning to contest the Daytona 24 Hours and the remainder of the races with its own driver combinations.
Negotiations with three other teams are currently in the final stage. A maximum of four Audi R8 Grand-Am cars will be delivered for the 2012 season to ensure individual support and coordinated logistics.