Audi invited us to warm and sunny Florida for the 59th annual Twelve Hours of Sebring, the opening round of the 2011 American Le Mans Series that was held this past weekend. While the French racing team Oreca took the surprise win in the LMP1 class (beating the factory Peugeot 908 HDi team in their older first-generation Peugeot 908 HDi-FAP), Audi held on through punctured tires and collisions to deliver both the fourth and fifth spot in matching R15++ diesel-powered prototypes (Audi will run its brand-new R18 prototype at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June). In the GT class, BMW proudly nailed first and second place with its hot M3 GT.
Spending time behind-the-scenes with a race team offers a completely different perspective, especially when it comes to an endurance event. While huge crowds of spectators down cold beer and blister from sunburn at Sebring's huge infield and midway (with some seriously creative camping accommodations), dozens of Audi Sport Team Joest crew sweat out the long hours working on the minute details – everything from track concrete composition to atmospheric barometric pressure is taken into account. During our glimpse into a whirlwind 48-hour period (encompassing qualifying and the race), the pace was maddening whether the drivers were attending signing events or the crew was rehearsing pit stops.
Check out our extensive photo gallery with coverage of the 56-car field. Note the amount of race telemetry delivered in real-time to the team engineers in the hot pits, and the exhaustion of the crew in the 85-degree ambient temperatures (who capture shut-eye only while the car is running well). A special shout-out to Xander Walker, who we bumped into hanging with the folks in Turn 10 – see you guys next year!
Audi's Sebring drivers ( Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Mike Rockenfeller) signed a flag for us before the race. While it looks great on our wall, we're going to give it to one of you ( official rules). Leave a comment on this post to enter (only one comment or else you're disqualified), and we'll choose one lucky recipient for the win.
How to Enter:
- Leave a single comment on this post (if you leave two or more, all of your comments will be disqualified)
- You must be 18 years or older and a resident of the US or Canada (excluding Quebec)
- Limit 1 entry per person during entry period
- This entry period begins 7:30 PM EST on Friday, March 25 and ends at 7:30 PM EST on Saturday, March 26. We'll randomly select 1 winner at that time to receive an Audi flag signed by the team's 2011 Sebring drivers.
- For a list of complete rules, click here
Photos copyright ©2011 Michael Harley / AOL