HARD ROAD AHEAD Teams who ran the newest GT cars at Daytona – the Ferrari 458 and Audi R8 – discovered the scale of their challenge in the Rolex Series season ahead. Words Tony DiZinno | All images F. Peirce Williams
Ferrari and Audi win a lot of praise simply on their names and pedigrees, but were cast in the unfamiliar role
of underdogs against established Grand-Am Rolex Series GT entries from Porsche,
Chevrolet, Mazda and BMW in the 50th
Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Both new cars, Ferrari’s 458 and Audi’s
R8 were homologated from FIA GT3
specification into Grand-Am spec, with
seven new cars in the 45-car field. Five
Ferraris included a pair from Risi
Competizione and one apiece from AIM
Autosport Team FXDD, Extreme Speed
Motorsports and AF Waltrip. Oryx Racing
and APR Motorsport entered the two Audis.
Raphael Matos (Risi) and Guy Cosmo
(Extreme Speed) observed that the GT3-spec
458 gave up time and aero compromises to
their usual GTE-spec F458 Italia run in the
American Le Mans Series, but still said this
more stock version was a fun car to drive.
Qualifying results were mixed. The
highest Ferrari was second – Je; Segal for
AIM – while the best Audi was 15th,
although Oryx Audi’s Steven Kane hinted
that he could have been much higher.
“To be honest, on my fastest lap I lost
about six tenths getting balked, which
could have put us P3,” the plucky Irishman
notes. “Given that, it wasn’t too bad.”
Unfortunately for Oryx, that was as
good as its weekend got. The crew was left
perplexed over being involved in three
full-course cautions and lasting only 30 to
35 minutes on a fuel run, compared to 40 or
45 for their competitors.
Those, though, were small potatoes
compared to the main problem that dogged
Audi throughout its first ever Daytona 24
start – clutch issues. They struck the Oryx
car first and later hit the sister APR car.
“We were short on fuel earlier than we
expected, and I was towed to our garage
where some fuel was added,” said Kane.
“I rejoined the race for a lap before handing
over to Humaid [Al Masaood], but the
clutch felt like it was slipping.”
Oryx lost three hours trying to fix it and
APR’s entry, which included Audi legend
Emanuele Pirro in its five-driver lineup,
reported its first clutch issue just before
6 p.m. With a dead clutch, it went to the
garage for a two-hour repair.