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Rally and Endurance

Wednesday 20th July 2011

AUDI GUNS FOR HONOURS IN SECOND LEGENDARY & HISTORIC 24 HOUR RACE

  • Audi R8 LMS GT3 racecar bids to repeat R18 TDI sports-prototype Le Mans win
  • British-based Audi official “customer” team includes motorsport “legends”

Seven weeks after achieving its 10th victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours, Audi bids for further glory in another endurance motorsport event when the German marque contests the annual Spa 24 Hours with its R8 LMS sportscar.

Seven Audi R8 LMS GT3 class sports cars will contest the 63rd running of the Spa 24 Hours first staged in 1924 with Britain’s only official Audi “customer” team, United Autosports, aiming for glory with a three-car entry that includes a number of motorsport “legends”.

Having led the GT3 class and ultimately achieved third and fourth places in its maiden 24 hour race in last year’s corresponding event, Leeds-based United Autosports heads to the beautiful Ardennes region of Belgium aiming for outright race glory.

Former Le Mans 24 Hour race winners Mark Blundell (GB) and Stefan Johansson (SE) plus 1998 Indianapolis 500 race winner, Eddie Cheever (USA), three former Formula One “pilots” who raced for United Autosports at Spa last year, are joined by another Le Mans race and F1 Grand Prix winner, Johnny Herbert (GB), plus double Indy 500 race winner Arie Luyendyk (NL).

The race marks not only the team début for Herbert and Luyendyk but also their Spa 24 Hour débuts and for Arie, who won the 1998 24 Hours of Daytona, his first-ever race on the daunting 4.35-mile Spa-Francorchamps track.

Blundell, Cheever, Herbert, Johansson and Luyendyk have contested over 50 24 hour races between them.

Team Owners Zak Brown (USA) and Richard Dean (GB) are also amongst the 12-driver line-up that is completed by Matt Bell (GB), Alain Li (F), Richard Meins (GB), Mark Patterson (USA) and Henri Richard (USA).

As with last month’s Nürburgring 24 Hours, the Spa race is also a “factory” event for Audi Sport supported by quattro GmbH. Phoenix Racing and the W Racing Team both enter two R8 LMS sportscars apiece.

Amongst their line-ups are Audi Sport “factory” drivers Mike Rockenfeller (D) and Marcel Fässler (CH), winner’s of the 2010 and 2011 Le Mans races respectively, plus multiple German Touring Car Masters (DTM) champions Mattias Ekström (SE) and Timo Scheider (D) and 2011 DTM driver Filipe Albuquerque (POR).

Audi opened a new chapter in its history with the mid-engined R8 LMS in 2009. For the first time it was possible for motorsport enthusiasts to acquire a racing car designed for “customer” racing events.

Since 2009, the V10-engined R8 LMS has achieved an incredible 94 GT3 class race wins and eight championship titles.

2011 Total 24 Hours of Spa – Audi R8 LMS Entries:

#8 Audi Sport Team WRT (BEL): Bert Longin (B)/Filipe Albuquerque (POR)/Stéphane Ortelli (F)

#9 Audi Sport Team WRT (BEL): Greg Franchi (B)/Timo Scheider (D)/Mattias Ekström (SE)

#11 United Autosports (GB): Matt Bell (GB)/Mark Blundell (GB)/Eddie Cheever (USA)/Mark Patterson (USA)

#12 United Autosports (GB): Alain Li (F)/Arie Luyendyk (NL)/Richard Meins (GB)/Henri Richard (F)

#17 Audi Sport Team Phoenix (D): Marcel Fässler (CH)/Andrea Piccini (ITA)/Mike Rockenfeller (D)

#18 Audi Sport Team Phoenix (D): Marc Basseng (D)/Christopher Haase (D)/Frank Stippler (D)

#23 United Autosports (GB): Zak Brown (USA) / Richard Dean (GB) / Johnny Herbert (GB) / Stefan Johansson (SE)

Provisional Timetable:

Thursday July 28 – 0900-1030 Practice 1; 1415-1545 Pre-Qualifying; 1900-1930 & 2100-2330 Qualifying

Saturday July 30 – 0905-0925 Warm-up; 1600 24 Hour Race starts

* All times are “local”

Mark Blundell (GB). Age: 45. Born: Barnet, England. Lives: Royston, England:

Spa 24Hr: 2010 9th/3rd (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS). Spa History: Début May 16 1987 (F3000/2nd). F3000 (1987-89 – 1987/2nd), F1 (1991-95 – 91 scored first-ever F1 point, 94/5th, 95/5th), sports cars (1989/3rd). Last race at Spa: July 31-August 1 2010, Spa 24 Hours (9th/3rd). Other 24Hr races: Le Mans (1989, 1990, 1992/1st, 1995/4th, 2001, 2002, 2003/2nd). Daytona (2011/4th [United Autosports Riley-Ford]). Nürburgring (2011).

“It’s great for me to return to Spa with United Autosports again. The team and I know that this race will be tougher than last year as the competition is even stronger but I am confident that the team combined with the Audi R8 LMS are a match for anyone. Rest assured myself and the other drivers will need to work hard for a top result.”

Eddie Cheever (USA). Age: 53. Born: Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Lives: Indianapolis, USA:

Spa 24Hr: 2010 9th/3rd (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS). Spa History: Spa début May 22 1983 F1/3rd, F1 (1983, 85-89 – 1983/3rd, 1987/4th, 1988/6th), GpC (1986/5th, 1987/4th. Last race at Spa: July 31-August 1 2010, Spa 24 Hours (9th/3rd). Other 24Hr races: Le Mans (1980/19th, 1981/8th, 1986/24th, 1987/5th). Daytona (2006/17th, 2007/32nd).

“Spa is one of my favourite circuits and returning with United Autosports after last year’s third place in GT3 makes it all the more interesting. The team’s calm and efficient race execution of its first Spa 24hrs surprised a lot of people, including myself. Now that we all know what to expect we can just drive and get on with it. And hopefully all the effort will translate into an outright win.”

Johnny Herbert (GB). Age: 46. Born: Brentwood, Essex, England. Lives: Dorsington nr Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England:

Spa 24Hr: Début. Spa History: Début September 13 1986 (F3/8th). F1 (1989, 1991/7th, 1992/13th ret, 1993/5th, 1994/12th, 1995/7th, 1996, 1997/4th, 1998/10th, 1999/11th, 2000/8th), F3 (1986/87). Last race at Spa: September 12 2004 (LMS/1st). Other 24Hr races: Le Mans (1990, 1991/1st, 1992/4th, 2001, 2002/2nd, 2003/2nd, 2004/2nd, 2007/9th). Dubai 24 Hours 2009 (45th/ 8th). Nürburgring (2011).

“It will be my first race at Spa since September 2004 when Jamie Davies and I drove an Audi R8 sports-prototype to victory to win the Le Mans Series title. It’s my all time favourite race track. Spa will mark my first race for United Autosports and first in a R8 LMS GT3 sports car. I’ll also be driving with Stefan [Johansson] again after racing an R8 with him in the 2002 American Le Mans Series. I hope we can challenge for an overall win. We have a great package with a good team of drivers in each of three cars and with the R8 LMS drivability combined with its reliability I hope this brings us to the top spot.”

Stefan Johansson (SE).

Age: 54. Born: Växjö, Sweden. Lives: Los Angeles, California, USA:

Spa 24Hr: 2010 10th/4th (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS). Spa History: Début August 9 1981 (F2/14th). F1 (1983, 85-91 – 1986/3rd, 1987/2nd), F2 (1981-2 – pole-position 1982/F2), GpC (1982-4), 1,000km sports cars (1988/1st). Last race at Spa: July 31-August 1 2010, Spa 24 Hours (10th/4th). Other 24Hr races: Le Mans (1983/6th, 1984, 1990, 1991/6th, 1992/5th, 1997/1st, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003/3rd, 2006, 2007, 2008). Daytona (2000 23rd, 2002 36th/13th, 2005/4th, 2006/22nd).

“I am very excited to be re-joining United Autosports for our second attempt at the Spa 24 Hours. We had a great run last year and hopefully we can improve on that this time with an extra year of experience. Zak & Richard have again managed to put together a great driver line-up. Meanwhile I loved driving the Audi R8 LMS, it’s a great sports car, and I can't wait to get behind the wheel again.”

Arie Luyendyk (NL). Age: 57. Born: Sommelsdijk, The Netherlands. Lives: Fountain Hills, AZ, USA:

Spa 24Hr: Début. Spa History: Début. Other 24Hr races: Daytona (1986/2nd, 1988/89/91/97 (all DNFs), 1998/1st, 1999/8th; Le Mans (1989/DNF).

“I have enjoyed testing the Audi R8 LMS. My first acquaintance of the sports car was 20 laps at Spa. I’d never been there before but it’s without doubt one of the greatest tracks in the world and I honestly cannot wait to actually race there – what a circuit! I also did a test at Rockingham [England] in last month. I’m steadily getting the hang of what it takes to get the most out of the Audi. I'm ready and immensely looking forward to racing in a 24 hour race again – it's only been 12 years!”
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