24 Hours of Daytona Weekend Round Up

The 24 Hours of Daytona was held this weekend, round one of the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Five Audi R8 LMS cars from four different teams were entered in the GT Daytona (GTD) class. Two cars from Flying Lizard Motorsports and one each from Fall-Line Motorsports, Paul Miller Racing and GMG Racing.

Three weeks ago the Audis showed great pace at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 (pre-event test days) and Flying Lizard Motorsports set the fastest overall GTD class lap time with their #45 Audi R8 LMS.

The official 24 Hours of Daytona track action got underway on Thursday. Two practice sessions preceded the four individual class qualifying sessions and a third practice session later in the evening. The Audi teams showed good pace in all of the sessions, but it turned out to be a day of ups and downs.

The first practice session saw the #46 Fall-Line Motorsports Audi R8 LMS of Charles Espenlaub, Oliver Jarvis, Charlie Putman and James Walker topping the GTD class time sheets. The next Audi in the times was that of Paul Miller Racing with the #48 R8 LMS of Matthew Bell, Christopher Haase, Bryce Miller and René Rast in thirteenth. GMG Racing placed nineteenth with Marc Basseng, Frank Stippler, James Sofronas and Alex Welch in the #32 Audi R8 LMS. Flying Lizard Motorsports' two R8 LMS cars, numbers 35 and 45, finished twentieth and twenty-fifth. The #35 is driven by Filipe Albuquerque, Seth Neimann, Alessandro Latif and Dion von Moltke, and the #45 by Nelson Canache Jr, Tim Pappas, Spencer Pumpelly and Markus Winkelhock.

The second practice session was held later on Thursday and Paul Miller Racing placed sixth with the #48 R8 LMS. The #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports R8 LMS was thirteenth fastest, ahead of Fall-Line Motorsports #46 in fifteenth and the #35 Flying Lizard Motorsports in seventeenth. GMG Racing's #32 R8 LMS was twentieth.

Qualifying was up next and highlighted by Paul Miller Racing taking pole position in the GTD class and Fall-Line Motorsports taking third within GTD. The celebrations were however short lived, as both of the two front running Audi cars were disqualified for technical infringements and would have to start from the back of the grid.

Paul Miller Racing was disqualified due to a problem with their rear wing end plates and Fall-Line Motorsports' ride height was at fault.

Due to the disqualifications the highest Audi on the starting grid was originally the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports R8 LMS in eighteenth. The #35 Flying Lizard Motorsports and #32 GMG Racing were twentieth and twenty-first respectively.

The Audi teams also performed well in the third practice session held on Thursday evening. Three of the Audis placed within the top ten, with Flying Lizard Motorsports #45 and #35 placing seventh and ninth, sandwiching #46 Fall-Line Motorsports in eighth. Paul Miller Racing #48 was thirteenth and GMG Racing #32 was twenty-fifth.

The big news on Thursday was the pole position and subsequent disqualification of Paul Miller Racing's #48 Audi R8 LMS. Christopher Haase's GTD pole time was penalized following a technical infringement with the car's rear wing end plates. Since then the IMSA supervisory officials had reviewed the case. It was announced on Friday that Paul Miller Racing's pole position was reinstated and the penalty rescinded.

The fourth and final practice session was held on Friday morning. Two Audi R8 LMS cars made it into the GTD class top ten. The #46 Fall-Line Motorsports Audi R8 LMS placed sixth fastest in GTD. They were followed by the #35 Flying Lizard Motorsports R8 LMS in tenth.

The #32 GMG Racing R8 LMS was nineteenth fastest. The newly reinstated GTD pole sitters, Matthew Bell, Christopher Haase, Bryce Miller and René Rast in the #48 Paul Miller Racing R8 LMS, were twenty-fourth fastest. The #45 Audi R8 LMS from Flying Lizard Motorsports rounded out the Audi runners in twenty-sixth.

With four practice sessions and qualifying behind the teams, it was full steam ahead towards the green flag at 14:10 local time on Saturday afternoon. It was also the beginning of a new era in North America, as it was round one of the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

The race got underway on Saturday afternoon with plenty of action within the GTD class. Fall-Line Motorsports’ race came to an end after five laps, following an accident at turn one with Charlie Putman behind the wheel. The #46 Audi R8 LMS could not be repaired to take part further in the race, but fortunately Putman was unharmed. Turn one was also the scene of GMG Racing’s race coming to an end during the night. An LMPC car made contact with James Sofronas and the resulting accident ended the #32 Audi R8 LMS team’s run at the 2014 24 Hours of Daytona. Luckily Sofronas also escaped unharmed.

At the front the Paul Miller Racing #48 and Flying Lizard Motorsports #45 Audi R8 LMS cars remained within the lead battle at the front of the GTD class. After setting the pace for many hours, Paul Miller Racing suffered a series of pitstops and a water leak, which dropped them out of contention and they ultimately finished sixteenth.

Flying Lizard Motorsports soldiered on with their two car entry, fighting for positions within the top ten, with the #45 recovering and staying in touch with the leaders. The #35 Audi R8 LMS crew came home to finish fifth. The #45 Audi R8 LMS was involved in a titanic battle at the end of the race with the #555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia.

Markus Winkelhock was behind the wheel of the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS during the final stint and he was battling hard with the Ferrari. The final lap saw the Ferrari ahead of the Audi. Winkelhock had a good run on the Ferrari in the infield section and positioned his car for a bold outside manoeuvre, which saw him going side-by-side with the Ferrari. Winkelhock then subsequently went wide, with the Ferrari on his inside, and lost some ground. The Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari crossed the line first, but later received a seventy-five second time penalty for what was deemed to be avoidable contact during the side-by-side moment.

Flying Lizard Motorsports was then declared as the race winners, but a few hours later IMSA retracted the highly criticized time penalty and Level 5 Motorsports were reinstated as the GTD class race winners. The final results then saw the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS squad of Nelson Canache Jr, Tim Pappas, Spencer Pumpelly and Markus Winkelhock finishing second within GTD. The official Audi press release states: "The Team Flying Lizard Motorsports reserves further action against this decision and would like to comment not before Monday."

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