2017 Bathurst 12hr – GT Motorsport Audi R8 LMS

The #5 Audi sought to defend its 2016 class win at the 2017 Bathurst 12 Hours. Unfortunately, the team of Greg Taylor, Nathan Antunes, and Elliot Barbour came up short, retiring the car with only 161 laps completed.  The car showed pace – Antunes steered the Audi into the top 10 qualifying shootout as the only Audi to do so.  Sadly, the engine cover removal is usually a bad sign.  The culprit was contact from another car to the left rear.  Great livery and great run while it lasted.  Enjoy the pics!

2017 Bathurst 12hr – Team ASR Audi R8 LMS

The #3 Audi R8 LMS with KFC sponsorship prominently shown finished 7th overall  (2 laps off the lead) and second in class (one lap down).  The three drivers were Ash Samadi, Daniel Gaunt, and Matt Halliday in the Pro-Am entry.  Colonel Sanders was on the flanks rather than behind the wheel.  At the end, the car looked remarkably clean.  Well done. In a sport with so much B2B sponsorship, it was nice to see a consumer goods sponsor – like KFC or not.  Enjoy the pics!

2017 Bathurst 12hr – DJS Racing Audi R8 LMS

Largely an amateur effort, Daniel Stuttard, James Bergmuller, Samuel Fillmore piloted the #2A DJS Racing Audi R8 LMS with charity in mind.  Challenge is an Australian nonprofit dedicated to supporting kids with cancer and Challenge 72 is a group of members that get together several times a year in support of the cause.  The matte black Audi sported colorful Challenge logos and names of kids on its bodywork.  On the track, the car covered 272 laps but was ultimately classified as a DNF.  Hope to see them again next year!

Marco Seefried Ready to Go

076a4424About four hours into the Petit Le Mans race, and Marco Seefried is suited, booted and ready to go.  He took over for fellow driver Andy Lally in the Magnus Racing Audi R8.  Seedfried joins the team for the longer endurance races, but he is well known to the team and very fast and very experienced.

By this point, Lally in the Audi had suffered damage from contact inflicted by the GTLM Porsche #912 when the Porsche failed to navigate the slower pace of the Audi which had just emerged from the pits after a stop.  The Porsche took the brunt of the damage, although inspection of Lally’s right rear after hi stop to switch to Seedfried (and fresh rubber) revealed a badly damaged wheel.  It is a testament to the wheel and the Continental Tire that neither failed during Lally’s stint despite the damage.

Camera Settings – 1/500, f/5, ISO 100, 142mm.

Farewell Audi

20140611-11161445Much has already been written and said about the withdrawal of Audi from the FIA WEC series and top-tier LMP racing.

Among others, Marshall Pruett has observations at Racer.com and Gary Watkins has his own analysis on Racer.com here.

Graham Goodwin says thank you to Audi on Dailysportscar.com and Stephen Kibley has an excellent historical retrospective.

20140615-15061050John Dagys talks about Audi’s Gift to the Endurance Racing World on Sportscar365.com.  Tony DiZinno credits Audi for making Le Mans great again and offers some personal reflections about what Audi did for his personal sportscar passion.

The gang at Radio LeMans talked about the news during the Midweek Motorsport Edition on the day of the announcement.  That podcast is available here.


Like NASCAR struggled in the years after RJ Reynolds Winston sponsorship ended, the FIA WEC will struggle in the absence of Audi.  The amount of “activation” resources spent by Audi has been enormous.  For every Euro of engineering or staff investment for the product on the race track, Audi must have spent a Euro (or more) to make sure everyone knew they owned the track.

20140615-15151542Banners alongside the track have been a very visible means of grabbing eyeballs and making sure you remember Audi’s presence even when the four rings aren’t in the television frame or spectator’s sight line.


20140615-15063128The quantity of staff and guests at LeMans alone was staggering.  Multi-story temporary hospitality structures?  Yes – several of them.  Audi didn’t just bring guests to LeMans – they took over an exhibition hall to build hundreds of pods for guests within a 10 minute walk from the Le Mans track – and kept a fleet of cars and vans to ferry guests around the facility.

Building a structure just before the Dunlop bridge solely for all spectators – not just invited VIPs – to get a great look at cars launching up the hill at the end of the front straight?  Yes.

20140612-12153859Those things barely scratch the surface of the Audi approach to making the most of their investment.  The logistics are incredible.  The impact for service providers, caterers, local temporary staff, airlines, construction crews, transporter drivers, electricians, and more will be material.  While the loss will be felt inside the FIA WEC offices.  The tracks that sell advertising space and hospitality spaces and the surrounding communities will also feel the impact.

20140612-1210355320140612-12123913-2The high standard on the race track is abstract in some ways, but certainly operated as a bar for others to meet.  We know that Audi staff had to make the case each year to continue their program, but imagine the poor person tasked with making the business case to a Board of Directors or Chief Financial Officer at another manufacturer to spend the cubic Euros that it would take to be competitive.

“We should be able to win so that we get good publicity, right?”

“Maybe here and there, but Audi has pretty much dominated Le Mans and most other race tracks so we shouldn’t count on winning anything.  They sometimes run 3 cars which gives them a few chances at a win.  If one stumbles, we might get on the podium.”

“What about if we spend $100m Euros?  We should be able to win with a budget of $100m Euros, right?”

“Not likely.  Audi spends north of $200m each year.”

“We should be able to at least be competitive, right?”

“Not really.  Audi has a deep bench of very experienced engineers who have perfected their craft, they constantly develop new cars and new technology and have some of the best drivers in the world.”

“Why would we do this, let alone spend $100m Euros for the privilege?”


As the philosopher Tommy Kendall says, there may be no right or wrong, but there are consequences.

20140612-12111853The rear-end change during the 2000 LeMans race is still discussed today.  Think about that for a second.  We are in 2016 and a mechanical fix done 16 years ago during one race still is discussed in hushed tones of reverence among sportscar fans.  It is memorable amidst all of the all of the other memorable Audi moments on the track and when the trophies were handed out.  In fact, the switch was so remarkable that it inspired a change in the regulations to ensure that such a thing could never happen again.


There wasn’t anything cutting edge about the technology.  No unobtainium materials were employed, hybrid harvesting systems in operation, or crazy budgets involved.  It didn’t even test the rules or seek to operate in the gray areas of nebulous interpretations.  It was merely very clever engineering and preparation.   It was the brains of the people involved.  The regulation change was ostensibly made in the name of cost, but it was a tangible sign of the ever-present push to be better, faster, more reliable, and more competitive.  It was also a signal to the rest of the field and any potential challengers.

20140615-15062351-2As easy as it might be to blandly attribute Audi’s success to a faceless German automated machine, the Audi effort was populated by colorful characters.  Dr. Woflgang Ullrich always had a twinkle in his eye as he fielded questions from pit reporters during the race.  He also generously stopped what he was doing briefly in pit lane on the morning of Le Mans to say hello – and did it with a big smile.  Brit Howden “H” Haynes played the central figure in the Truth in 24 and made himself a celebrity in the sportscar world.  Like Dr. Ullrich, he is the same person with the same affect as the person seen on screen and he easily made time to briefly chat about the misfortunes in practice for the 2014 race and subsequent repairs.  Howden’s protoge, fellow Brit Leena Gade, not only calmly stepped into his place when he departed Audi, but claimed victory on her own terms.   When is the last time you saw a spectator banner at the racetrack that featured the name of an ENGINEER?  Drivers, teams, countries – yes.  But, an engineer?  The power of the personalities at Audi, Audi’s willingness to let them be the focus of attention, and their relentless desire to do no more than play their part in the team.



Ulrich Baretzky, the Head of Audi-Sport Engine Development and mad scientist of the engine department, has designed powerplants for almost every type of race car since starting at Audi in 1986 (and did quite a bit before that point as well).  Like changes such as Diesel or not, Audi was at the forefront of hybrid and diesel technology along with a host of other technological developments. Another one with a twinkle in his eye, one wonders what ideas were tried in the lab but never made it to see the light of day.  One can debate the beauty of the Audis – brutish in some years rather that beautiful – but the car clearly was always designed around the engine.

Reinhold Joest was well accomplished long before getting together with Audi.  He was a successful driver, winning at daunting places like the Nurburging and the 24 Hours of Daytona.  He never won LeMans as a driver, but drove the famous (infamous?) Porsche 917 Pink Pig at LeMans in 1971 so his name still adorns the flanks of the car as it sits on display in the Porsche museum.  In total, Herr Joest has won the 24 Hours of LeMans a total of 15 times.  That does not happen by accident.  The purposeful, methodical, and logical approach to race preparation and execution is the product of experienced and wise leadership.

20140615-15150829Americans could always look to Brad Kettler, a fixture in so many different roles in the Audi racing program over many years.   Tom Kristensen – Mr. LeMans – is likely the sole reason for the Danish invasion at Le Mans each year.  Allan McNish always proudly ran with the Scottish Hunting MacInnes tartan banner on his helmet.  There is no question that the program always was for a German manufacturer with deep German roots, but the best and the brightest were sought regardless of the flag on their uniform.

20140614-14130753-2In 2011, Audi endured two enormous crashes.  Allan McNish’s unsuccessful attempt to slice down the inside of a Ferrari GT car just after the Dunlop bridge rained Audi parts down on photographers and bystanders.  A full wheel assembly bounced behind the barrier with suspension pieces still attached.  Later in the same race, Mike Rockenfeller crashed at night in a big way and littered the track with debris in the fast run towards Indianapolis corner (ironically, also trying to pass a Ferrari GT car).  There wasn’t great video of the incident, but the magnitude was clear.

The looks of concern in the pit box and dampness in Dr. Ullrich’s eyes betrayed the emotion of the moments.  The emotion was palpable.  Despite crashes that comprehensively destroyed both cars, both drivers walked away – an amazing testament both to the design of the cars and to the investment the team had in the men behind the wheel.

Even down two of their three bullets in the gun, Audi won the 2011 race in front of three Peugeots.

20140612-12201933While we’re talking about drivers, consider the roster of drivers that have worn the Audi rings in the prototype program.  Yes, names like Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish come to mind easily.  But think about names like Frank Biela, Didier Theys, Emanuele Pirro, Rinaldo Capelo and Michele Alboreto.  Alboreto, the Italian former Ferrari F1 driver , sadly died in a 2011 testing crash at Lausitzring in an Audi R8.

20140615-15154402Christian Abt, Laurent Aiello, and Stephane Ortelli ran in the early days of the program.  Mike Rockenfeller, Timo Bernard, Romain Dumas, Loic Duval, Marcel Fassler, Benoit Treluyer, Lucas Di Grassi, Oliver Jarvis, Marc Gene, and Lucas Luhr came later.

20140614-14122616The drivers individually were impressive and the Audi success helped them to establish their place in history, but the driver combinations were magic.  Biela, Pirro, and Kristensen won three Le Mans races in a row.  McNish, Capello and Kristensen won Le Mans, Sebring and others.  Having fast drivers is one thing, but getting the combinations right and balancing the desire to be fast but to be a productive team-mate is an art.  Somehow Audi did that consistently.20140614-14110323

While customer cars weren’t numerous, the factory team stepped aside in support of customer cars from teams like the American Champion team.  Champion not only provided exposure in the United States, but it gave opportunities to drivers like Johnny Herbert, JJ Lehto, and Marco Werner who won LeMans overall in 2005.  Stefan Johansson had several drives for Champion as well.  Japan’s Team Goh claimed their own LeMans title in 2004.

20140614-14121630Audi’s engineering behind the scenes (and drivers and other support) gave Bentley it’s 1-2 finish in 2003 while customer teams followed in third and fourth.  While it may have been a Bentley badging exercise, arguably the win and publicity gave Bentley road cars a strong push in its resurgence as a player on the luxury car market.

20140615-15061119With so many moments and angles to choose from, it can be easy to overlook even those that attracted global attention at the time.  Think back to 2014 when Porsche made its return to top-tier sportscar racing.  Just before the race, Audi published a one minute Youtube video showing an Audi LMP prototype making its way from Ingolstadt, through the German countryside (passing a gentleman on a Porsche tractor – cheeky and subtle), into Stuttgart and stopping in front of the Porsche factory.  Spinning tires created a haze of tire smoke but instead of circular donuts, the prototype spelled out “Welcome Back” on the pavement.  Very classy.  Excellent concept and choreography.  Very clever use of social media.  Interestingly, the message was also scrawled on the pavement in English rather than German, a clear acknowledgement of the global target for the message.

Of course, Audi had already learned the power of media multiplication through their support for Radio LeMans, and the twin Truth in 24 documentaries.  The documentaries were spearheaded by Audi USA and gave birth to one of the iconic lines of the sport – “It always rains at Le Mans.”  John Hindaugh’s commentary to millions of radio and internet listeners brought fans much closer to the sport and to the Audi story.  His soundtrack for the movies told the story of the races.  Just as Audi helped to support Radio LeMans, Radio LeMans helped to spread the word for Audi.  A rising tide lifts all boats…

Books can be (and will be) written about the Audi era of prototype sportscar racing.  Audi’s place in history is unique and ought to be recognized.  Should Audi be compared with Porsche?  They both racked up overall wins, adapted with changes in technology, pushed the limits of development and sustained over a long period of time.  Porsche perhaps wove a broader thread of influence throughout the grid by virtue of its more extensive customer program and its support of both prototype and GT classes at the same time.

20140611-11161248-2Sadly, the complex nature of the modern-day prototype means that most Audi prototypes will never find there way into private ownership and historics racing.  Some of the earlier Audi R8 models have indeed been sold and make periodic appearances, but like the Porsche RS Spyder, that was very likely the last model that will do so.

201527003351130Arguably, Porsche’s place in sportscar racing history is continually cemented and enhanced by vintage races and events like the Rennsport Reunion that celebrate the marque.  Porsche has wisely supported such events as well.  So many fans have been drawn to models like the 956 and 962 who never saw the models race in period.  Audi is unlikely to have this kind of exposure for its racing heritage and its place in history will likely suffer for it.

250247372 So what’s next for Audi?  DTM and Formula E.

DTM is in shrinkage mode with the 2017 field paring back to 6 cars per manufacturer.  DTM racing is popular and high tech (and has some crazy history), but is relatively focused on the German and European market.  The races are sprint races for one driver rather than endurance races with multiple drivers.

Formula E is clearly the current favorite of European manufacturers given the focus on electric power as the future instead of internal combustion.  The rules give some latitude for development, but the races are open wheel sprints on mostly tight street courses.  It may be an unkind and biased assessment coming from an endurance sportscar fan, but it is difficult to see how Formula E has the potential to write history for Audi in a similar magnitude as sportscar racing.  Audi will undoubtedly attack the series with its methodical way of doing business and may score success, so there is no reason think that they won’t claim their share of headlines.

Does the R8 LMS platform continue?  The GT3 customer program has certainly brought success on the track and for Audi’s profit statement.  Arguably, Porsche has always set the standard for customer GT racing, but Audi gave customers more choices and proved that a business case can be made.  Mercedes sold over 100 SLS GT3 models and expects to sell a lot of AMG GT3 models further the point.  Chatter of an R8 GT3 successor has been suspiciously quiet, so one wonders whether the customer Audi GT program is coming to an end (whether due to the VW emissions fines or otherwise).  It would be a shame and diminish Audi’s ability to make a more permanent mark in sportscar history.

20160528-280751514 20160528-2808162357We honor the results.  We respect the effort, approach, dedication and passion.  We respect the pace of technological development.  We appreciate the exposure that Audi brought to the sport globally – not just at Le Mans.  We enjoyed the interaction with the personalities and additional layers they added to the story on the track.  We always feared the escalating budgets and the small number of players in the LMP class.  We knew maintaining both the Porsche and Audi programs within the same corporate family was borrowing time.   To invoke the cliche, we’re thankful for the experience but sad that it is over.  By any measure, Audi and all of the staff and drivers that wore the four rings as a part of the motorsports family should be proud of themselves.

Farewell Audi.  20140615-1515102420140615-15151041-2



Audi R8 Pace Car Lap – Ready to Race


Road Atlanta is a marvelous spectator track.  The natural terrain road course has elevation changes and many great sight lights that are not blocked by fences.  For the fan (as well as the photographer), the question arises from where to watch the start?

The run from the green flag down to Turn 1 is the natural choice as all the cars are clustered together, the flagstand is within sight and Turn 1 can produce drama.  The run down to Turn 10 is another great option as much of the field is visible on the straight leading to the corner and the passing opportunities are often difficult to resist.

My choice for this year was Turn 5 at the top of the esses.  The view all the way up to Turn 3, the quick twisty run down the hill, and the furious launch over the crest at Turn 5 made for a great way to get the festivities underway.

This shot intended gives the Audi R8 pace car the spotlight for the first of its two pace laps as the prototype entries tagged close behind.  The texture of this section of track is also on display with the gravel trap in the foreground, the green and white curbs through the turns and the rubber marks on the pavement.

Camera Settings – 1/1000 shutter speed, f/5.6, ISO 100, 420mm.

Rolex 24 GTD Class – A Deeper Look

Endurance races have multiple layers and there are a multitude of plots and sub-plots, unseen stories and angles and facts that get filled in later.  The Rolex 24 at Daytona had plenty of storylines that grabbed the headlines, but the days and weeks after the race provided an opportunity to have a closer look.  The GTD class had the most entries in the race, some of the most significant changes to teams, cars and drivers, and some of the closest racing.  With that, some observations and nuggets through the GTD field at the Rolex 24:

  • The #22 WeatherTech/Alex Job Porsche looked like a strong contender for the win. Shane van Gisbergen in particular was electric.  Better known for his Australian V8 Supercar exploits, he set 24 of the top 25 fastest laps for the car throughout the event.  With 75 minutes to go, the rear wing mounts failed and the wing laid further back. He later said that he could see the crippled wing in the rear view mirror going into turn 1.  Regardless, he charged into the infield and went flat out through the kink where the lack of rear downforce sent him and into a spin across the grass.  The team tried to secure the rear wing and sent him back out.  Incredibly, he charged into the kink at full speed again and repeated his off course excursion in almost the same tire tracks.  A colleague described van Gisbergen as a grenade – pull the pin, stick him in the car, close the door and BOOM.  He further proved it by claiming an electric pole and spearheading a three driver team to take the win at the Bathurst 12 hour the following weekend.


  • The Lamborghini badge made its first appearance in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and let the chance for a debut victory get away despite clearly having the fastest GTD cars in the field. The #16 Change Racing entry and the #48 Paul Miller entry took each other out of the lead and both sustained major suspension damage.  The #11 O’Gara car suffered a variety of electrical maladies before the third hour.  The #28 Konrad Lamborghini took the lead with under 10 minutes to the checkered flag, but knew fuel would be marginal at best.  The team gambled in an effort to claim the win, but ran out of fuel with only 3 minutes to go and lost out on a podium position.




  • Daytona is unique, but the Lamborghini performance was sufficiently dominant that the marque may find itself the subject of a future Adjustment of Performance. The fastest average lap time for a Lamborghini (and GTD overall) was set by Madison Snow and was a full second clear of the fastest average time for the fastest non-Lamborghini car (Jorg Bergmeister in the Park Place Porsche).  How fast were the Lamborghinis through the speed traps?  Several cars had faster average top speeds that ALL of the GTLM cars and ALL of the PC cars.  Yes, they gave some of it up on the infield to the GTLM and PC cars, but less to the rest of the GTD field.  It is easy to understand the frustration of other GTD cars after seeing the Lamborghinis easily whistle past on the banking.


  • Change Racing and Franz Konrad managed to get some extra preparation time by entering the Lamborghini Huracan in the HSR Classic 24h race at Daytona in November. Change Racing was familiar with the Lamborghini Huracan after having run in the 2015 Super Trofeo series, but appreciated the additional time to adapt to the GT3 specification.  The car run by Konrad at the HSR Classic event was shared by multiple teams and drivers at the open IMSA test in November.  Perhaps a brand new Lamborghini Huracan GT3 is not strictly a “classic,” but kudos to Change Racing, Konrad and the HSR team to get the new car some track time during the classic event.20160130-3020465112420160130-30213048173
  • The Lamborghini crews worked a full day on Wednesday before the Rolex as fresh engines arrived at 6:30am for all the teams. It was quite a sight to walk through the garages and see all the Lamborghinis with empty engine bays.  Perhaps evidence of the Huracan as a new car, several teams had technical manuals within arm’s reach as they worked through the installations.


  • The Magnus victory was the first win in the US for the new Audi R8 LMS. The team first tested its new arrival on December 7 and announced Marco Seedfried and Rene Rast as drivers a month later to join Andy Lally and John Potter, but it was a bit of a challenge to adjust to seeing Magnus in an Audi after so many years of running Porsches.  Rast, Potter and Lally were also on the winning squad when Magnus won in 2012.  The victory was Lally’s fifth class victory at the Rolex which puts him in rare company (prior wins were with Archangel Motorsports with Nissan Lola, twice with TRG Porsche, and Magnus Porsche).  Rene Rast won a fuel strategy battle which was ironic after coming up just short in a fuel strategy race in 2013.  He managed his lead masterfully, running laps several seconds slower than the oncoming Nicky Catsburg in the Black Swan Porsche and Damien Faulkner in the #92 “Don’t Mess with Texas” Viper.

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  • The third place #93 ViperExchange “Don’t Mess with Texas” entry was also the winning GTD chassis in 2015. With their third place in class, the team came only seconds shy of giving the chassis another victory.   Team owner Ben Keating found the tires late Saturday night in the #33.  The excursion cost 10 laps between the time for the safety crew to recover the car and the subsequent repairs, but pushed ultimately finished only 3 laps down at the end.  Damien Faulkner in the #93 not only was the fastest driver in the car, but drove the most laps of any driver in the car and GTD overall, logging 195 laps.20160130-301132235120160128-2808560392
  • The #33 ViperExchange entry was the only car to completely miss the final Friday practice before the race. A clutch issue that took a lot of methodical effort to chase, diagnose and fix on Friday prevented participation.  The problem was fixed, but the team was denied a hardship lap prior to the race which meant the green flag was the first time the team could evaluate its repairs.  Likewise, the #93 team car had a brake issue in the final practice and it only got 6 timed laps.  The Friday practice session was the only dry practice session which meant that the race start was the first dry running for the #33 car at all, making the 6 laps logged by the #93 quite valuable for the team.


  • The ViperExchange team had several drivers doing “the double” between the Continental BMW Performance 200 support race on Friday and the Rolex 24 over the weekend. In the #93 Viper that finished 3rd in GTD class and 16th overall, drivers Eric Foss and Jeff Mosing won the ST class in their Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman.  On the #33 Viper that finished 10th in GTD and 24th overall in the Rolex 24 after running into problems, Marc Miller finished third in the CJ Wilson Racing “Darth Cayman” GT4 and Jeroen Bleekemolen finished sixth the Muehlner Motorsports Porsche Cayman in the Friday race.


  • Stevenson Motorsports brought two current spec Audi R8 LMS entries to the Rolex. Fans have been used to seeing Stevenson running Camaros in the Continental series.  The #6 Audi was the car that Audi brought to the November test for teams to try out and Stevenson took it home after that test.  The Rolex 24 was its first outing.  After running consistently in the top 5 in class, damage with four hours to go cost several laps that couldn’t be recovered and the car finished 15th in class and 32nd

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  • The #9 Audi was run by the Phoenix team at the Nurburgring 24 hours in 2015 at the debut for the revised R8 LMS platform. Unfortunately, a power steering problem ended up requiring removal of the gearbox to fix and the team missed the qualifying session.  The #9 also suffered an electrical/battery problem at the start of the Rolex 24 which cost two laps at the outset.  Once running, however, the #9 Audi ran a clean and consistent race but just didn’t have the outright speed to challenge for the lead.  The car finished 8th in class and 22nd overall, 2 laps off the class lead.  Dion von Moltke had the fastest average lap times, but Tristan Vautier ran the most laps (190) by far of any driver in the car and the second most laps of any GTD driver in the race.

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  • Frikadelli brought its “Fastest Meatball in the World” to Daytona for the first ever race for the team beyond the Nurburgring. Frank Stippler and Porsche Junior driver Sven Muller were clearly the fastest of the drivers in the #30 Porsche.  Queen of the Ring Sabine Schmitz never could get comfortable enough to match their speed.  Klaus Abbelen, the butcher whose business is the basis for the meatball theme, showed pace that was reasonably close to Sabine’s speed.  The Frikadelli team didn’t have the outright pace, but ran a very clean race to finish 12th in class and 27th  Coming to Daytona has been Abbelen’s dream for years and he drove the car for its last stint to the checkered flag.

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  • The #45 Krohn Racing/Flying Lizard Audi was a fan favorite during the Rolex weekend judging by the crowds gathered around its garage space. It never threatened for the lead, suffered through contact with a prototype that damaged its splitter, and ultimately retired with a gearbox problem with four hours to go.  The team will return at Sebring for the 12 hours in the older spec Audi R8.  The chassis was the same car that placed second in class at the 2014 Rolex 24.

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  • Turner Motorsport brought its pair of BMW M6 GT3 cars for their maiden run in the US. The blue and yellow pair of cars had 16 engineers looking after them, making the Turner team look like something out of NASA Mission Control.  The #97 had a very solid run and the best run of the two, placing 6th overall and 2 laps off the class lead.  The #96 replaced the gearbox and then later suffered nose damage after a tire blew out and required time in the garage to repair.  Oddly enough, the #97 suffered a tire failure in Friday practice as well, but suffered no damage.   Neither car had the top speed to compete at the front of the field.  The team will be hoping that Sebring fits the car better (and/or looking for changes to the Adjustment of Performance).

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  • The #73 Park Place Porsche sat on pole after a stellar wet qualifying lap by Norbert Siedler and ran very well throughout the race and into Sunday. However, gearbox woes struck on Sunday morning and deprived the team of a strong finish.  Driver Patrick Lindsey lost drive coming out of turn 5 and pulled off the track at turn 6 just before the banking and steered the car slowly through infield traffic back to the garage.  He had the media center in stitches recounting his voyage weaving between passenger cars, pedestrians and track shuttles.  He commented on the irony of getting all kinds of attention for the unusual drive through the infield – more than winning Petit LeMans. The team lost its shot for a win, but got the car back out later to let its season-long drivers meet their minimum drive times for points.

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  • Scuderia Corsa ran a Ferrari 458 in GTD and a brand new Ferrari 488 in GTLM. The team won the 2015 GTD IMSA championship with a completely different driver line-up.  The 2016 version ran a clean and consistent race and kept close, but finished two laps down 7th in class and 21st overall.  The car wasn’t involved in drama and ran competitive lap times which usually is a recipe for a higher finish.  The team should be proud of its run, but will likely be disappointed to miss out on a podium for the final run of the team’s 458 which is expected to be replaced with a shiny new 488 GT3 car.  Scuderia Corsa was also busy fielding three cars in the Ferrari Challenge support races over the weekend as well.20160128-2809172925920160130-301304225620160130-30215119239
  • The #23 Spirit of Seattle/Alex Job Porsche finished 9th in class and 23rd overall.  They raised in excess of $147,000 for Seattle Children’s Hospital based on pledges per lap run.  Wolf Henzler joined the team after the Falken Porsche team ceased operations at the end of 2015.  The team ran strongly in the top few spots throughout the night before problems with a shock and then a loose rear diffuser in the last few hours slowed things down a bit.  A strong run with the new Porsche car should be an encouraging sign for the team.20160128-28092033292 20160130-30204724128
  • Perhaps the reward for the invisible car of the race goes to the AF Corse operated Spirit of Race Ferrari 458. The entry barely featured in pre-race coverage and ran a quiet race.  They finished 11th in class and 26th overall, 5 laps off the class lead.   It was delayed by damage incurred through contact with another car near the halfway point but otherwise ran under the radar until a flat tire with under 19 minutes to go in the race garnered some television time.  Pace was consistent with driver Raffaele Gianmaria clearly the fast shoe behind the wheel with average lap times among the non-Lamborghini GTD leaders.


  • The #007 Racers Group Aston Martin ended its race the late Saturday night/early Sunday morning after side by side contact with the #21 Lamborghini in the bus stop at lap 371.  The Lamborghini was a customer car and not a threat for the lead.  The contact put both cars out. Formula One driver Sergio Perez was on site to support his brother, Tono Perez, who drove for the team.  With Mexican drivers, sponsors and coverage and 100+ guests, there was plenty of buzz all weekend near the TRG garage.  Before the race even started, the Aston Martin was the victim of a tire blowout on the front stretch in the second practice session which did significant damage to the right side of the car.  While such an issue is never good news, it could have been a lot worse.

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  • Lexus has announced plans to enter the IMSA GTD class mid-season with veteran Scott Pruett relative newcomer Sage Karam as drivers. The team is testing in the early part of 2016 and hopes to race by Laguna Seca or Detroit.  The news is noteworthy in light of the theoretical distinction between GTLM being a factory class and GT3 as a customer class.  However, another factory entry was at the Rolex 24 in the form of a works supported Aston Martin squad with some very experienced pilots.  Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, Paul Della Lana and Richie Stanaway comprised the driver strength.  The #98 ran strongly and relatively free of trouble and incidents, staying near the top of the GTD leaderboard consistently.  The team finished an impressive fourth, but a late stop for fuel win under 15 minutes remaining cost the team a podium finish.

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  • Perhaps the winner in the GTD livery contest was the #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche with is electric green and chrome wrap. The IMSA entry marked the return for team owner Tim Pappas who had been running in the Pirelli World Challenge series recently in a Mercedes SLS GT3 and a Viper GT3.  It also marked a return to Porsche for the Pappas.  The team plans to run the entire season with Pappas and Patrick Long as full season drivers and Andy Pilgrim and Nick Catsburg joining for the enduros.  Pilgrim was a late addition in December after parting ways with the Cadillac World Challenge.  Somehow, Pilgrim is ranked as a Silver category which gives the #540 a very strong driver line up as evidence by the impressive second place GTD finish.  Rene Rast’s fuel saving skills in the Magnus Audi is all that stood between the Black Swan team and the top step of the podium.20160128-280837473920160130-3013051262 20160130-30143432143 20160130-30204009116

Arguably, the Rolex 24 was a successful debut for new GT3 cars. Multiple Lamborghinis in the field, multiple new Audis, multiple new Porsches, and new BMW M6 entries put on a show.  The Ferrari 488 is coming soon.  The Viper and Aston Martin are unlikely to see new versions.  The Lexus should show up mid-season.  Mercedes will likely be on the grid in 2016 as well.  It is a good time to be a GT racing fan.  Sebring provides a very different setting with a very different race, but should be fun.


Observations on the Rolex 24

Doing some preparation for the Rolex 24 at Daytona and ended up with a bit of an overview/preview.  The more one looks, the more interesting angles there are to the race.  While prototypes may be the fastest and most likely to compete for top honors, the story for the 2016 Rolex 24 Hours is the GT cars.  Opinions on that score may vary, but it still is a compelling race even if your view differs.  2016 is the last year for the Daytona Prototype formula as we know it and the Prototype Challenge class is usually more of an intramural affair.  The driver line-ups in the big prototype cars are impressive but much of the chatter revolves around what 2017 will bring in that class.

Why is GT the story?  New cars in both GTLM and GTD, teams changing cars, and drivers changing teams and cars.  We’ll get to GTLM in a moment, but this is the first race with the full GT3 specification available to customer teams in IMSA.


There are 22 GTD cars on the preliminary entry list.  Sadly, the AMG GT3 and the McLaren GT3 offerings are not in the field but Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Dodge Viper, BMW and Aston Martin provide the variety.

Porsche 911 GT3 R, Alex Job Racing: David MacNeil, Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen, Shane van Gisbergen, Gunnar Jeannette

Times looked reasonably tight at the Roar with most cars within a second of each other.  Clearly that is only testing and Daytona is a unique track, but the GT3 platform and prior balancing experience helps to keep things tight.  Perhaps most interestingly, however, the sector times from the Roar appear to show that different cars make their speed at different parts of the track – even among similar manufacturers.  For example, the #48 Paul Miller Lamborghini was very fast in the infield and slowest on top speed but the #11 O’Gara Motorsport Lamborghini showed almost the opposite.


IMSA was watching as well and issued an Adjustment of Performance bulletin on January 21, 2016 with tweaks for every car in the GTD field.  The Aston Martins got the most help with the new Audi R8 LMS and the Lamborghini Huracan losing performance in the form of weight and restrictor.CZWh0HJWwAIb_1Q

It still is a bit of a shock to look around at all the change in GTD.  Five Lamborghinis?  Magnus in an Audi?  Stevenson appearing with no Camaro, but rather two Audis?  Bell and Sweedler moving to an O’Gara Lamborghini from Scuderia Corsa and then Neilsen moving from the TRG Aston Martin to take one of those vacant Ferrari seats?  Kuno Wittmer moving from the TRG Aston Martin to the GTLM BMW? Pumpelly released from Park Place Porsche and landing with Change Racing in a Lamborghini?  World Challenge Cadillac ace Andy Pilgrim released and landing alongside Patrick Long, Nicky Catsburg and Tim Pappas in a Porsche?  What about seeing ex-Falken GTLM Porsche drivers Sellers and Henzler in GTD with Sellers in the Paul Miller Lamborghini and Henzler in the Team Seattle Porsche?  Arguably, the defending GTD winning Viper team has the most stability in terms of car, driver and team.  Alex Job would also be a strong bet with his deep experience and talented driver squad and a brand new 991GT3R.33-roar-2016-dx2_8328

Dark horse?  Hard to call the Frikadelli Porsche a dark horse with so much experience at the Nurburgring and talent in the driver’s seat, but this will be their first race away from home.  Daytona is much different – arguably much less perilous than the Nurburgring in terms of traffic, weather, bumpiness of the track.  They did very well at the Roar so keep an eye on the Queen of the Ring and her team.

Porsche 911 GT3 R, Frikadelli Racing: Klaus Abbelen, Patrick Huisman, Frank Stippler, Connor De Phillippi, Sven Mueller

GTD is likely to be slightly slower in 2016 than 2015 due to the greater downforce and drag on the cars.  Fastest race lap in 2015 was about 1:47 compared to a fastest Roar time of about a second slower, but the field may be tighter in 2016.  We’ll also have to wait and see what impact the Adjustment of Performance will have.


The big off-season story in IMSA is clearly the appearance of the Ford GT program with Ganassi Racing.  The two car team will be part of an 11 car GTLM field.  That means there will be 33 GT cars on the grid of the total 54 entries – about 60% of the field.  It is a good time to be a GT racing fan.CYNybJiWMAASGFX

The driving line-up in the Ganassi entries is stellar – perhaps rivaled only by the line-up in Ganassi’s prototype cars, but that’s a separate story.  Porsche brings two revised 911RSR cars back along with BMW with two brand new M6 cars (in place of the now-retired Z4 platform) and Corvette with two cars.  Scuderia Corsa, who ran two Ferrari 458 entries in GTD in 2015, splits their effort for 2016 with one car in GTD and another in GTLM.  Scuderia Corsa joins SMP Racing and Risi Competizione with the brand new 488 GTE platform for the car’s first outing.  The car is so new that Risi shook its car down at the factory before shipping it to Miami to have it delivered directly to the track in the days prior to the race.3810.06-Fiorano

2015 saw some epic battles in GTLM, so what did the Roar tell us about 2016?  Who knows?  Nobody has any faith that any of the times were representative of anything.  (For example, the two Porsches were together at the bottom of the chart with the two new BMWs closer to the top.) With that said, however, times were all within a second and, like the GTD cars, different cars appeared to make time in different parts of the track.  The Fords had a few incidents at the Roar which caused damage and cost time, so the Ganassi team will be hoping that the test got the accidents out of their system.

The Adjustment of Performance Bulletin on January 21 also contained from presents for the GTLM class with changes to boost ratios, fuel capacity and refueling flow restrictors.  Nobody has any incentive to show any more cards any earlier than is necessary.

Corvette and BMW finished one-two in 2015 on the same lap – no reason to think that 2016 won’t be just as close.  The BMW is a new platform, so reliability is the big question for that team.  The winning Corvette is back with Magnussen and quiet fast guy Garcia.  Factory Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller joins in place of Ryan Briscoe who moved to the Ford GT program.2016_WTSC_Roar_10

One potentially interesting angle worth watching during the race is the gaps between GTLM and Prototype Challenge.  While the GTLM cars are likely to be three to four seconds a lap faster than the fastest GTD cars, the gap could be minimal to the slower PC cars – particularly when the full factory hotshoes are in the GTLM cars and the amateur drivers are piloting the PC cars.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see GTLM cars making some aggressive moves to avoid getting held up.  The GTLM cars appear faster in a straight line, but the PC cars are more nimble in the twisty bits.


In some ways, the Prototype class looks like the most stable class, but there are a variety of sub-plots to watch.  Michael Shank wants badly to taste success with his P2 car, particularly has he prepares to make a run at the 2016 24 Hours of LeMans.  His P2 has been fast, but sometimes fragile.  Amateur John Pew has continued to get faster, but he’s still in a class going up against full professionals.  Teammates AJ Allmendinger, Oz Negri, and Olivier Pla (now released from factory Nissan duty) will likely keep this entry at the sharp end of the field.CYZUXXKUAAAUijn

ESM will have its own P2 in the field.  ESM and Shank were at the top of the charts at the Roar, but the bulk of the prototype class was only separated by about a second.  The Ligier P2s were rewarded with additional weight via an Adjustment of Performance while the SMP team got a modest weight break.

In other news, the Ganassi team has two strong cars with fairly strong driver lineups.  Austrian and recently retired WEC driver and F1 veteran Alex Wurz makes his Daytona debut along with factory Porsche driver and new Ford GT WEC driver Andy Priaulx.  Young Lance Stroll completes the line up as the weak point – less experienced than the others by far (as perhaps evidenced by his crash on cold tires during the Roar).   The other Ganassi car is the defending race winner – the Indy/NASCAR entry with Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson.  Enough said.  Two strong bullets in the Ganassi gun.2016_WTSC_Roar_3

Mazda may be one of the more interesting stories in prototype after dropping the diesel engine in favor of a two liter inline four cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine.  The team maximized the potential of its prior diesel, but making a racing engine out of a production diesel engine was a tall ask.  Over 4000 miles of testing and a very strong showing at the Roar suggests this team may have some promise in the race.  Mazda has a lot of history at Daytona and 2106 is the 25th anniversary of its famous overall win at LeMans.  If the new Mazda engine can stay reliable in its debut, the young quick drivers like newcomer Spencer Pigot and his all American fellow drivers can be a threat.Roar Before the 24 2016

Scott Pruett moves down pitlane to join the Action Express team in search of yet another Rolex 24 victory.   Action Express has had a lot of success over the past several years and the team of Christian Fittipaldi, Filipe Albequerque and Joao Barbosa will likely run a steady and brisk pace with the goal of staying close at the end and then going racing.  This car finished second in 2015 and would like to move up a step on the podium.

The VisitFlorida team is all different with Ryan Hunter-Reay joining Ryan Dalziel and Marc Goosens in the Corvette DP.  The team finished third in 2015 with a completely different set of drivers.  (Rockenfeller will be running with the Corvette squad and Richard Westbrook joined the Ford GT program, both in GTLM.  Michael Valiante appears not to have landed a seat – at least not yet.)

Taylor Racing sees no changes, but perhaps spent some time in the off-season focusing on the driver time calculator after running into problems late in the 2015 Daytona 24 hour race costing the team a podium finish.011016_ROAR_BC_157053

The plucky Delta Wing appears to have found some funding and assembled an interesting driver squad.  The car showed well at the Roar, the fastest in the infield sections of all cars.  Mechanical gremlins in the gearbox have sidelined the car in previous endurance events, so reliability will the biggest challenge.

Russian SMP Racing brings their BR01 chassis which is another interesting story, but more about them further below.

Prototype Challenge

The headline for PC is the same as usual – fast enough to mix things up, but not fast or reliable enough to challenge for the overall.  In 2015, the top PC cars finished 8th and 10th overall.  CORE looks to improve, bringing back most of its driver lineup and looking to experienced engineer Jeff Braun to help steer the ship.

Times within the class are likely to be variable and the margins between cars and lap times wider than other classes.  Remember also that the GTLM cars may be mixing it up amongst the PC cars with the PC cars stronger in the infield.RD46553

The two Starworks entries from Peter Baron, the CORE entry, and the PR1/Mathiasen defending class winner have the depth and experience to be the strongest.  CORE in particular has several years of consistent strength.  Others may have spurts of speed and could make things interesting but the pace at the Roar suggests that they’ll have a difficult task.RD44747

What else to watch?

European Teams on the Entry Again

In the 1980s and 1990s, European teams would often head to the US for the Daytona 24 and Sebring 12 hours.  They bulked up the fields, added some additional flavor, and brought interesting cars.  There was a lot more overlap in those days with the 24 Hours of LeMans.  Without revisiting all of the gory history of Grand-Am and American LeMans Series, the European presence at Daytona has been sparse for the last decade plus.

The presence of teams and people like Franz Konrad will be a welcome sight.  Franz is no stranger to Daytona and is bringing two GTD Lamborghini entries.  While it seems a little odd to see the Konrad colors on anything other than a Porsche, he does have modest history with other marques including a brief dalliance with a Lola prototype and Saleen S7-R.  (If memory serves, the Lola had a spectacular engine failure at the Rolex 24 in 1999 and retired early to the garage.)24hDubai16_40

As noted earlier, the German Frikadelli team is making its first visit beyond the Ring.  The fastest meatball in the world started a Twitter account during the roar and quickly amassed several hundred followers.  The team is such a sensation on home soil, they may relish the chance to race slightly outside the spotlight.  Sabine Schmitz is certainly well known to Ring fans and Klaus Abbelen (a butcher, business man who has the meatball connection), but the rest of the drivers include Frank Stippler, Patrick Huisman and Sven Müller.  Huisman and Stippler are well known but young Sven is a driver to watch.  He is a Porsche factory Junior driver and has run German Carrera Cup, Supercup and WEC races.  Another reason to keep an eye on Frikadelli as a potential threat.     With perhaps the most interesting combination on the entry, Russian SMP Racing will be running a BR01 Nissan powered P2 prototype in the top class and a Ferrari 488 GTE in the GTLM class.   This will be the IMSA debut for the BR Engineering prototype, but the team has run at Daytona previously.  In 2014, they finished fourth in a Ferrari 458 run in cooperation with the ESM team.  The 488 program will be run with partner AF Corsa who has plenty of experience with the GTLM class and Ferrari GT cars in general.  The driver line-up may not be familiar to US fans, but Andrea Bertolini and Viktor Shaytar won the GTE-Am class at the 2015 24 Hours of LeMans (and Shaytar won the championship in class).  They’ll be joined by Gimmi Bruni who has three LeMans GT class wins to his credit since 2008 and is generally synonymous with Ferrari GT racing over the past 8 or 9 years.  Brit James Calado rounds out the driving strength, bringing years of single seat and AF Corsa Ferrari GT racing experience along with him.   If you’re looking for a GTLM darkhorse, the SMP Ferrari 488 entry may fit the bill.2016_WTSC_Roar_5

The team may run at Sebring as well, but has not yet announced their intentions.  The prototype will be obsolete after 2016 with regulation changes, so hopefully the team can get the most mileage and racing activity out of the chassis while it can.CYI7IcgWAAAkSHw (1)


Long term forecasts are fickle, but there aren’t a lot of indicators of anything other than an average January Florida weekend.  Mid-60s F during the day, high 40s F overnight, and no major rain to be seen.  Given the IMSA weather experience in 2015 at places like Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta, average would be just fine.

Outstanding Driver Combinations

There is an impressive list of drivers from multiple disciplines and multiple places and some really impressive combinations of drivers in cars.  There are experienced veterans and fresh novices.  There are sportscar specialists and those that make their living in other forms of motorsport or even outside motorsport in the case of some of the amateur drivers. CX4ZxZjUsAAeO-_

Some drivers have already seen action in 2016 at the Dubai 24 and a handful will head from Daytona straight for Australia to run the Bathurst 12 hour.

Lots of Reasons to Watch

A total of 54 cars with two-thirds in the GT classes.  Some very close times within classes and intriguing overlap between classes.  A chance to see how changes of drivers, cars and teams work out.  Potential spoilers in the form of teams like Mazda who have been patient and hungry and are ready to play at the front of the field.  Stellar drivers with remarkable backgrounds.  New hardware like the Ford GT and BMW making their race debut.  Factory efforts like Porsche looking to erase the memory of a difficult 2015 race.  Cars with strength at different parts of the track could make for interesting battles as the advantage ebbs and flows.StartFinishLine_620w

As usual, full coverage from the Radio LeMans team via IMSA Radio.  Many teams and drivers on Twitter and other social media combined with outlets like Dailysportscar.com make it easier to keep up with events.  Doubtless many more reasons to watch, but those ought to be enough for any motor racing fan.  Enjoy!

Photo credits: IMSA, BMW, Porsche, Mike Hull, ViperExchange, Shank Racing, Mikhail Aleshin, CORE, Wayne Taylor Racing, Action Express Racing, Risi Competizione, Konrad Racing

Santa Delivers new GT3 cars

If you’ve been paying attention to social media, you’ve seen that some teams have been posting pictures of their brand new race cars as they’re being delivered.  The past week or so has seen a lot of new hardware delivered to waiting race teams and more deliveries are coming soon.  Some cars are only shown by their teams after they’ve received their new colors, but there is something about the bare carbon presence of a brand new race car.  We’ll also be watching for delivery of new customer AMG GT3 cars as deliveries are set to begin in the coming week.

Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan (via Bryan Sellers Twitter)

PaulMiller Lambo

Team Seattle Porsche 997 GT3 R in the shop and at Sebring (via Ian James Twitter)



Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS at Sebring (via Magnus Rracing Twitter)


Turner Motorsport BMW M6 in Munich (via Turner Motorsport Facebook)

TurnerM6-5 TurnerM6-3 TurnerM6-2 TurnerM6 TunerM6-6 TunerM6-5 TunerM6-4

Frikadelli Porsche 997 GT3 R (via Sabine Schmitz Facebook)

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Window shopping for race cars

Always interesting to see what is for sale and how much money is being asked by sellers.  Just for giggles, have a look at these goodies courtesy of Racecarsdirect.com:

Reynard 2KQ that ran at LeMans in 2000 for €198,000.

2015 Audi TTRS that claimed multiple SP3T class VLN wins at the Nurburgring for €135,000.

Private collection of Adrian Reynard of eight open wheel cars.   Includes BAR Formula One cars from 2002 and 2003.  POA.

2001 Arrows A22-03 Formula One car for €85,000. Does not appear to be running.

2013 Mercedes AMG SLS for £180,000 run in British GT and undergoing a rebuild.

2012 Porsche 997 GT3 Cup for €89,000 with 25 hours on the engine and 5 hours on the gearbox.

2013 championship winning BMW Z4 GT3 for £180,000.  Ran ELMS, Blancpain and British GT with upgrades.  Extensive spares.

2014 Viper GT3-R run by Black Swan Racing in Pirelli World Challenge events for USD$500,000.  Includes extensive spares and is ready to race.

1995 Simtek Formula One car driven by Jos Verstappen for £115,000.

2012 McLaren MP4-12C GT3 for €158,000.  Blancpain Endurance and sprint history.  Some spares included and more available.

2012 Mercedes SLS GT3 with extensive race history, including Nurburgring 24 and many other races.  Updated to 2014 specs.  Car Collection owned in Germany.  €210,000.

Abt Racing 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3 for €150,000.   They also have three other Audi R8 race cars for sale as well.

2014 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS Ultra for €225,000.

2013 Mercedes SLS GT3 for USD$295,000.  Car is in Australia.

2015 spec Marc VDS BMW Z4 GT3 car – second overall at the 2015 Nurburgring 24 for €250,000.  If the car would have finished one place better, surely it wouldn’t be for sale – let alone at this price.

These listings might suggest that the recent listing of the Falken Tyres 997 GT3 car on Mobile.de with an asking price of €500,000 is perhaps a bit ambitious.

With the new AMG GT3, Porsche 991 RSR, Audi R8, Ferrai 488 and BMW M6, there are lots of previously enjoyed GT3 cars for sale.  Happy shopping!