Audi has won Germany's top endurance race for the first time, notching up a resounding 1-2 in the 2012 Nurburgring 24 Hours at the weekend.
The 40th running of the Eifel classic was an emotional roller coaster of erratic weather, extreme pace, tough competition, bitter setbacks and great triumph as the semi-works Audi Sport Team Phoenix team of Marc Basseng, Christopher Haase, Frank Stippler and Markus Winkelhock, driving a new Audi R8 LMS ultra, reeled off 155 laps of the 20km Nordschleife in 24 hours to take the first overall win for the Four Rings.
Christian Abt, Michael Ammermüller, Armin Hahne and Christian Mamerow in Peter Mamerow's privateer R8 LMS ultra came in a little more than three minutes adrift, with the Mercedes of Frankenhout, Simonsen, Kaffer and Arnold third, 11min off the pace and the only other car to finish on the same lap as the two leading Audis.
Despite the unpredictable weather the pace was hectic from the start and many leading teams were hit by crashes and mechanical failures. None of the Audi GT3 cars, which are based on the production R8, broke down, but a number were involved in nasty crashes.
Christopher Mies was leading in the No.2 R8 LMS ultra he was sharing with Marcel Fässler and René Rast when he was punted off the circuit in the rain. Repairs took 53 minutes, robbing them of any chance of victory - they were fifth at the flag.
Car No.4, the Belgian Speedhunters Team WRT R8, lost a huge amount of time after a collision in the middle of the night damaged its steering and the Belgian team were lucky to finish 32nd.
Team Raeder Motorsport's Thomas Mutsch was holding a promising fifth after 17 hours of racing when Mutsch was unable to avoid a back marker as he changed line. The resulting collision put Mutsch and the R8 into the guardrail and out of the race.
The works Audi R8 LMS ultra of Christian Bollrath, Pierre Ehret, Peter Venn and Marco Werner finished 17th but the sister car of Luca Cappellari, Florian Gruber, Warren Luff and Alexander Yoong retired due to damage caused in an accident.
Dieter Gass, head of racing commitments at Audi Sport, said: “The Audi R8 LMS has been the quickest GT3 car at the Nurburgring for the past three years - now we're delighted to finally win overall!
“Over the past 24 hours nothing whatsoever was handed to us on a plate; the win took consistently error-free performance from the drivers - and we congratulate them all.”
1 Basseng/Haase/Stippler/Winkelhock (Audi R8 LMS ultra), 155 laps
2 Abt/Ammermüller/Hahne/Mamerow (Audi R8 LMS ultra) + 3m 35.303s
3 Frankenhout/Simonsen/Kaffer/Arnold (Mercedes-Benz) + 11m 31.116s
4 Leinders/Palttala/Martin (BMW) +1 lap
5 Fässler/Mies/Rast/Stippler (Audi R8 LMS ultra) +4 laps
6 Abbelen/Schmitz/Brück/Huisman (Porsche) +4 laps
7 Müller/Müller/Alzen/Adorf (BMW) +5 laps
8 Hürtgen/Schwager/Bastian/Adorf (BMW) +5 laps
9 Klingmann/Wittmann/Göransson/Lamy (BMW) +5 laps
10 Zehe/Hartung/Rehfeld/Bullitt (Mercedes-Benz) +5 laps