DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Alex Job Racing is no Rolex 24 rookie team—owner and founder Alex Job finished second on the 1990 24-hour race, and the team won the GT class in 1999—but the team had traditionally fielded nothing but Porsches. Thus it was a bit of a surprise when the team announced that it would run an Audi R8 Grand Am in the 51st Grand Am Rolex 24 at Daytona.
It turns out the decision was the right one for both AJR and Audi as the #Audi Sport/AJR R8 driven by Dion Von Moltke, and factory drivers Felipe Albuquerque, Edoardo Mortara and Oliver Jarvis took the checkered flag 1.5 seconds ahead of the 52 APR Audi R8 and the #69 AIM Autosport Ferrari 458.
The #24 AJR Audi had to overcome its share of travails to reach the finish line first. With just ocver three hours left, the car was given a stop-and-hold penalty for avoidable contact—contact which upon review never happened. A lap down on the field with three hours left, the AJR team needed to use both strategy and speed to get back into the fray.
Grand Am rules allow cars which remain out when a class leader puts during a caution period to get waved by the field to the back of the pack, effectively gaining a free lap. AJR engineer Greg Fordahl saw his chance when a yellow flag waved with 90 minutes remaining; he told driver Felipe Albuquerque not to pit, getting the car back on the lead lap in seventh place.
Hard driving and more strategy got the #24 back to the front when the GT leaders pitted with 25 laps to go. Albuquerque pushed hard to open a 41-second gap—enough to cover his own upcoming pit stop.
With 19 minutes to go (eleven laps) AJR held first and second places—the team’s 23 Porsche 997 Cup ran behind the #24 in the lead, followed by a pair of Audis, the #52 APR car and Rum Bum’s #13, and the 69 AIM Ferrari. Fuel was an issue for both AJR cars and the Rum Bum Audi, though.
Five laps from the end, Albuquerque had to pit. Fordahl’s plan worked—his driver had enough of a gap to pit for ten seconds worth of fuel and rejoin in the lead. With three very fast cars right on his heels, Albuquerque had to drive with careful aggression to hold the lead and hold the car on the track.
The last three hours was crazy,” Albuquerque said in a press statement. “We got the penalty and we didn’t know why. When I got in the car, no one really believed we could win. They said ‘Get in the car and push like hell.’ I did.
“I was doing qualifying laps. I didn’t care about the tires, I didn’t care about anything, I was just pushing. The gearbox was starting to act funny, so I just kept pushing it.
“When we had the splash, I thought I was going to come out in the middle. When I got out ahead of them I was okay. They were battling behind me and I was able to get the win.
“I am still trying to realize that I won. When you are with Alex Job Racing and Audi Sport the only goal is to win. It is crazy, I can’t believe it!”
The #23 AJR Porsche finished sixth in class; all in all a very good day for Alex Job Racing.
Audi’s All-Out Assault
Audi Motorsport had had success with its R8 in every racing series it entered, except Grand Am’s Rolex Sports Car Series.
For the 51st Rolex 24 at Daytona, the German factory brought the heavy artillery—four R8 Grand Ams, nine factory drivers, and a full support crew, led by Audi Motorsports director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich.
Audi faced serious competition, in the form of half-a-dozen Ferraris and 18 Porsches, also assisted by a number of factory drivers.
Audi picked the right teams to support. AJR has been winning at Daytona since 1990, and, APR campaigned the Audi R8 throughout 2012 and had learned a lot about the car, and Rum Bum had been successful in the Continental Tire series and was ready to move up.
Audi ended up with a 1–2 finish; Rum Bum was third until the final laps when it ran out of gas, ending up 13th. The second APR car came home 12th in class.Ferrari fared almost as well, capturing third and fourth places, while last year’s winner, the 44 Magnus Racing Porsche, was the best finished from that marquee in fifth, followed by AJR’s Porsche.
Still it will be the first and second placed Audis which will be remembered and feted in the press. The German manufacturer will certainly recoup its investment through the publicity it will gain from its Rolex triumph.
The Rolex Sports car Series will be back in action on March 2 at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Tex. with the Grand-Am of the Americas. Get tickets now at Grand-Am.com.
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