TUSC: Audi reveals a potent five-car Rolex 24 lineup for GTD

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Audi nearly swept the GT class podium in the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona, ending 1-2 with Alex Job Racing and APR Motorsport. In what’s looking like a stacked GT Daytona (GTD) class field already for 2014, the manufacturer announced potent lineups for all five of its R8s this time around in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season opener.

Flying Lizard Motorsports, which shifts to Audi after a long stint with Porsche, will field two R8s. Its two full-season American Le Mans Series pairings of 2013, Seth Neiman and Dion von Moltke (No. 35) and Spencer Pumpelly and Nelson Canache (No. 45), will anchor their two cars at Daytona. Additional drivers are Filipe Albuquerque and Alessandro Latif (No. 35) and Markus Winkelhock and Tim Pappas (No. 45).

Paul Miller Racing, Fall-Line Motorsports and GMG Racing will field an Audi apiece. Miller’s son Bryce leads the No. 48 car’s lineup alongside co-drivers Rene Rast, Christopher Haase and Matt Bell. Fall-Line has announced a pair of Charles – Espenlaub and Putman – for a full-season in its No. 46 R8, joined at Daytona by Brits Oliver Jarvis and James Walker. GMG features James Sofronas and Alex Welch, Audi drivers for the team in the Pirelli World Challenge, with Marc Basseng and Frank Stippler alongside in the No. 32.

“We competed at Daytona a year ago in order to highlight the qualities of the R8,” Romolo Liebchen, Head of Audi Sport customer racing, said in a release. “We achieved this perfectly after taking a one-two finish in the GT class. Since then, demand in the USA has risen sharply. We are delighted that four teams now rely on the Audi R8 LMS to begin the TUSCC – particularly as all four teams have a good reputation in the USA. We are intrigued to see how they will measure up at Daytona and in the other races.”

The GTD class is designed to feature a pro-am format, but all of these lineups have maximized their driver combinations with a balance of true pros, 2013 Silver-rated drivers who could be considered pros, and fast gentlemen drivers. That’s the key to success in modern endurance sports car racing; eliminating as many weak links as possible.

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).