The team principals of two Audi squads have suggested the German manufacturer will have a tough task competing in this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Christian Land of Montaplast by Land-Motorsport and Vincent Vosse of WRT Speedstar both feel that the Audi’s new R8 LMS Evo kit upgrade is being compromised at the high-banked Florida speedway.
The quickest Audi, driven by Daniel Morad of Land, qualified 15th in GTD and one-second shy of the pace set by Marcos Gomes in the class pole-sitting Ferrari 488 GT3.
In practice, the Audis have been at least seven-tenths off the pace in each of the fully dry sessions, and while WRT’s Kelvin van der Linde did go second quickest in opening practice, the session took place in less representative damp conditions.
“We gained some downforce, some aero, especially front grip [with the Evo],” Land told Sportscar365.
“But we lost on straight-line speed. We saw that at the private [Daytona] test in December that we were around 10 km/h [6 mph] slower with the new aero upgrade than last year.
“It’s not easy for the officials to handle stuff like that with the new Evo cars, but at least, [by the] latest at the Roar test, normally they have to see that something was wrong and the Audi is too slow.”
The car entered the Roar 20 kg heavier than what the original version of the car ran in last year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale, while its air restrictor size was slightly increased in the offseason.
Land suggested that this Balance of Performance adjustment, and then a lack of a change between the Roar and the Rolex 24, means the Audi package is on the back foot heading into the first race of 2019.
He said that his drivers were “fighting” to produce their lap times in the three practice sessions and qualifying on Thursday.
“In qualifying it’s not so easy to look over the different lap times with the different silver drivers, but I am not happy with P15 for sure,” said Land, referring to the new rule that Silver and Bronze-rated drivers must qualify in GTD.
“In sectors two and three [the] Audis are in the last three or four places. This is in the top speed sectors, and this is totally clear that we lost a lot of straight-line speed.
“We give [IMSA] everything, but the BoP for the Roar came out and we said ‘OK, it’s not the best for us, but let us do it and maybe they’ll adjust later’.
“But with our simulations and the simulations of Audi we know that we are not competitive with this BoP.”
Vosse “Surprised” by BoP Deficit
Vosse, whose WRT team is making its Rolex 24 debut, expressed frustration at the apparent disparity between Audi and the leading GTD manufacturers in qualifying.
“I’m a bit frustrated so far because we know that the BoP was going to be an issue already last week [at the Roar],” he told Sportscar365.
“If they keep it like this, and they probably will keep it like this, I am a bit surprised with how much effort it is for a team or a manufacturer to be here, and that no-one is taking care of it.”
Vosse, who is at Daytona for the first time since he raced in the 2005 Rolex 24, admitted that WRT is facing a tall order to challenge for victory on its debut.
The highly decorated Belgian squad has won several high-profile races, including the Nürburgring 24, Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai and Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, at the first attempt.
“We have been winning most of the endurance races in GT3 first time out [but] I think this one will be quite difficult,” Vosse said.
“It’s not 20 kilos or a one-millimeter restrictor [change] which will help. It’s a big gap.
“We did everything to be quick on the straight. We set up the car to gain some speed, and now we are at the limit, we are still down in terms of speed. And now we have no room for improvement.
“It is what it is. It’s a bit frustrating, but I’m happy to be here. We will learn and try to do no mistakes.”