Audi Conquers Sebring – Again

SEBRING,FL. The 61st running of the 12 Hours of Sebring is now history (to be totally correct, the event is the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida) and once again, Audi Motorsport displayed their total dominance of the historic airport circuit.

Audi scored their 11th victory in 13 attempts, this time with the all new Audi R18 e-tron quattro Hybrid – the first race victory by a hybrid race car in the US. Florida has become a second home for the Audi squad, as the team has done considerable testing here over the years and in true Audi style was staying over after the race to do even more testing in preparation for Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Head of Audi Motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich has said that Sebring is the perfect place to test as it is the best place to learn the limits of both the cars and the drivers, since the circuit is so demanding on both.

The whole week was a bittersweet tribute to the race and the fans by Audi, as with the upcoming merger of the American Le Mans Series and GrandAm next season, there will be no LMP1 class, and hence, no Audi presence at Sebring for the foreseeable future. As such, Audi Motorsport set up a wonderful display of Audi winning race cars for the fans to enjoy in the Turn 1 area – including the R8, R10, R15 and R18 race winning models. In addition to the cars, Audi also brought along Audi winning drivers and legends Dindo Capello, Emanuelle Pirro, Frank Biela and Marco Werner to interact with the fans, talk about Audi’s racing history and sign autographs. I was sitting with Marco Werner during the race in Turn 1 and he told me how nice it was to be able to watch the race from there (he had never had the opportunity to just watch the race before) and how he enjoyed the interaction with the fans. Marco still drives for Audi in Europe, piloting an Audi R8 GT in select events.

The evening before the race, Audi held a press conference at the Chateau Elan Hotel at the circuit where Dr. Ullrich discussed how racing was in Audi’s DNA, how much they had enjoyed racing at Sebring and how, even with the potential of this being Audi’s last Sebring due to the series merger with GrandAm, never say never – things change and Audi may be back in the future.

Racing is always about change and the future. Audi’s young guns (Fassler, Treluyer and Jarvis) beat legends Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and newcomer Lucas di Grassi by under 8 seconds after 12 hours of racing. The third place car was a full five laps behind them.

It was a fitting way for Audi to end an era at Sebring.

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