Final flourish. Audi Sport Customer Racing closed the 2015 racing season with a dream result in Malaysia… Laurens Vanthoor returned from a two-month injury layoff to lead an Audi 1-2-3 in the Sepang 12 Hours GT race after qualifying the WRT Audi he shared with Stephane Ortelli and Stuart Leonard in second place, behind the Clearwater Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni, James Calado, Matt Griffin and Weng Sun Mok.
Stuart Leonard/Stéphane Ortelli/Laurens Vanthoor took the win for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT ahead of their team-mates Enzo Ide/Christopher Haase/Christopher Mies, while third place went to Niki Mayr-Melnhof/Nicki Thiim/Markus Winkelhock from Phoenix Racing.
The weather in Malaysia made for a dramatic race, with two cloudbursts initially forcing race control to interrupt the competition for an hour and 46 minutes and subsequently for another 53 minutes. With the participants restarting behind the safety car without the previous gaps being taken into account, thrilling position battles repeatedly ensued and as a result, two hours before the end of the race, the four fastest entrants were again lying within just four seconds of each other!
At this stage, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT gained an advantage by making its pit stops within a caution period so that very little time was lost. Laurens Vanthoor took the lead while, following the driver change, the sister car of Christopher Mies initially failed to start and lost 46 seconds in the process. Mies began a recovery in rain, overtook Nicki Thiim and, on the final pit stop lap, took the lead. Vanthoor received fresh tyres at this time and, as a result, took the lead again 39 minutes before the end of the race. With that, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT secured a 1-2 result and Stéphane Ortelli won his last race for Audi Sport customer racing.
For the Belgian squad of Vincent Vosse, this marked the next major success. In April, the team took the Audi R8 LMS to its first race victory in a 4-hour race at the Nürburgring and won the 24-hour race at the same venue in May. Now, at Sepang, the production-based race car, 50 per cent of which is based on the road-going model, again proved its performance capability and reliability.
‘Sincere congratulations to our three squads on the podium,’ said Romolo Liebchen, Head of Audi Sport customer racing. ‘In 2010 and 2011, we finished this race as the runnersup and now we’ve won it. With that, we’re closing a very successful first season of the new Audi R8 LMS with a dream result before our customers will be battling for success on four continents with a total of up to 50 Audi GT3 sports cars next year.’ In sixth place, Marchy Lee/Shaun Thong/ Alex Yoong crossed the finish line for Audi Hong Kong powered by Phoenix Racing Asia in Malaysia.
Team B-Quik Racing with Daniel Bilski/ Henk Kiks/Peter Kox in the first-generation Audi R8 LMS achieved third place in the GTC class for Cup cars. The squad from Thailand had initially led the race in their class, but then lost 18 minutes due to a sensor issue.
“Sincere congratulations to our three squads on the podium. We’re closing a very successful first season of the new Audi R8 LMS with a dream result…”
‘Laurens Vanthoor led an Audi 1-2-3 in the Sepang 12 Hours GT race…’
Romolo Liebchen, Head of Audi Sport customer racing.
Laurens Vanthoor returned from a two-month injury layoff after sustaining a double fracture of the hip during the Misano round in early October, while leading the Blancpain Sprint Series. Having been sidelined since, Vanthoor returned to the fray in Malaysia as Audi dominated the rain-affected race, eventually winning by 8.330 seconds, with Winkelhock one minute behind.
‘I have had a difficult time after my accident in Misano, but the fact that I had to work hard to get back into shape gave me extra motivation to do well here,’ Vanthoor said. ‘I also wanted to win here because it was probably the last race with my friend Stephane Ortelli. It was a hard race, but our efforts paid off.’
‘GT racing fans are witnessing an exciting era…’
Intervie wed following the race at Sepang, Romolo Liebchen, the Head of Audi Sport customer racing, commented on the 1-2-3 result: ‘This was indeed an end-of-season event that was made to measure. We met with five other marques in Malaysia, our squads from the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and from Phoenix Racing fought a thrilling battle for victory and in the end Stéphane Ortelli, in his last race for us, clinched a well-deserved win with Stuart Leonard and Laurens Vanthoor.
This meant a perfect ending of the first season for the new Audi R8 LMS. Summing up a challenging season, Liebchen added: ‘This year has been as intensive as hardly any others before it. We took the new Audi R8 LMS from its world premiere to its first endurance race victory within the space of 11 weeks and launched production in September as scheduled in order to serve our customers. In the first half of the year, we also mastered our move from Ingolstadt to Neuburg, while simultaneously taking care of all our customers who continued to compete with the Audi R8 LMS ultra. Our workload will be continuing through the winter, as we’re going to deliver 20 new Audi R8 LMS cars by Christmas, and another 30 by March’.
‘The track record for the season is a positive one on the whole – this year, we had not just one but two good vehicles in our line-up that were in contention for victory. Both, our well-known GT3 sports car and the new model, claimed victories and many other trophies. The new R8 LMS won the Nürburgring 24 Hours, the Sepang 12 Hours and a VLN race, plus podium positions in events such as the Spa 24 Hours, in Macau and in VLN races. In addition, our customers clinched numerous successes around the world with the well-known model for Audi. The drivers’ titles won by Robin Frijns in the Blancpain GT Series and by Christopher Mies in Australia were outstanding results.
‘Added to these are 11 further titles in other categories – from successes in Gentlemen categories, to team titles, to other classification categories. And not to forget the ‘Coupe du Roi’ manufacturers’ title, which reflects the result of the good performances delivered by the old and the new car in the 24-hour race at Spa.
‘The 2016 season will be very demanding because we’re supporting our customers with their new cars around the globe. The endurance racing series will kick off in Dubai and the United States as early as in January and in Australia in February. At the same time, many new cars of our competitors will be making their debut. That makes the high demand for our model all the more gratifying. ‘GT racing fans are witnessing an exciting era that, beyond the established series, is now featuring a global title as well – the Intercontinental GT Challenge. Audi has registered for participation and is set on battling for the title in four prestigious events in Australia, America, Belgium and Malaysia’.