The circumstances – as you were – are an obvious and perhaps glaring lack of results. APR is the only full-season entrant to have not yet scored a top-10 finish in class – its best is 11th at round two in Barber – and at that rate, it's down to a myriad of factors. Certainly no one expected miracles with a top-10 at Daytona with more than 40 cars entered, but with anywhere from 15-23 in the rest, it takes a perfect combination of excellent pace, strategy and patience to earn a strong result.
“The roast of the top cars run two pros,” says Hooks. “The Ferrari runs a pro and a gentleman, which speaks more to the strength of the package, but that's also what Grand-Am wants – where a gentleman and pro can have success. It's still very competitive up top.”
And, as von Moltke says, the pace has been a gradual improvement throughout the course of the year.
“We had to spend the first five or six races to find a baseline setup on the car, and that makes a huge learning curve every weekend,” he says. “Let's put Detroit out there – personally I made a mistake in the race that cost us. But qualifying fourth on our first ever street circuit was a very positive thing. Road America, over our first stint, tire wear was a bit better.
“I think the best race for us was at Mid-Ohio, where we got caught out by yellows. No one got to see it, but our race pace for the first time was a top-seven car. We ran consistently with everyone but the BMWs. It felt quick over an entire stint. We can always qualify well, but the race pace needs to improve. Road America we had a blown tire; we had a mechanical at Watkins Glen. But they're not excuses.”
The upside for APR, as it's turned out, is that it's been the only Audi team with the resources and the long-term investment to run the R8 the full season. Oryx Racing (RIGHT, leading the Ferrari) planned a full-season effort but withdrew after two races, citing driver and team principal Humaid Al Masaood's business commitments (and also sidelining the generally accepted fastest Audi driver in Steven Kane), while Limitless Racing ran a single start at New Jersey with Elivan Goulart and Jason Lee and hasn't been seen since.
APR, then, has had unparalleled access to Audi Sport Customer Racing support with operations and involvement from Brad Kettler, longtime engineer for Audi's Le Mans prototype program, among others. Audi's support to APR is a two-way street, and has paid dividends in the form of upgrades and more factory involvement at the six-hour race at Watkins Glen, as Scott explains. The biggest change was a rear wing adjustment, moved higher up and further back.
“We have always had Kettler's group there in the background,” Scott says. “We were trying to get more rear wing. We started to make a fair amount more progress after the two wet races. We worked with the car dramatically to find more grip. It had a decent amount at a much softer setup.
“By the time we got to Watkins Glen, we ran much softer than we ever had with the car. When Audi came over, with the 52 car and their technicians, and drivers with many miles (Frank Stippler and Marc Basseng), that brought another huge amount of info about the idiosyncrasies of the car that are in common with running in Europe. There were bits here we could never fix.
“They helped us find a lot of these things to choose. There was a great spirit of openness between the groups. It was a gain on many fronts. It was less them walking in and saying, ‘Hey, here's the setup;' it was more, ‘Here's how the car does work better.' We identified the Grand-Am idiosyncrasies, and the things we can work with Grand-Am. With their help, we were better able to define the problems and can more directly address them.”
Generally a qualifier between fifth and tenth – Stippler has the car's best qualifying of second at the Glen – the Audi has at least shown promising pace the day before the race, if it hasn't yet delivered a result. This being the first year of the customer project, Hooks is determined and poised for growth in 2013.
“It's a first-year deal but long-term, with a system where people can run these cars and have the support from them,” Hooks says. “We always have the support truck and a liaison from Audi Sport Customer Racing (Germany) every race. Guys at the Glen came in from Germany and worked as APR guys. The support has been excellent.
“Our plan at this point is two cars full-time next year. Right now it's the only place the car can run. That's exactly what we're shooting for and what our partners at Audi are working for.”
In the greater scope, with anywhere from four to six cars running in Continental alongside, the R8 is just one of many platforms for APR's motorsport division.
“It's one part of the parent company, and the integration of the two is very important,” Hooks says. “The R8 is being used as the proper launch of a GT car in the U.S. We enjoy carrying the banner, waving the flag, and never giving up against the odds.”