After racing Porsches since its inception nearly a decade ago, a new chapter for Flying Lizard Motorsports will begin next year, as the California-based team makes the switch to a new manufacturer for the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
The two-time American Le Mans Series GT class champions, which also won this year’s GTC teams’ title, announced Monday that it will campaign two Audi R8 LMS cars in the GT Daytona category.
While the full driver lineup will be announced at a later date, team principal Seth Neiman will continue behind the wheel, but now piloting one of the team’s brand-new mid-engined sports cars.
“This is certainly a substantial change for the team as Porsche has been a great partner for many years,” Neiman said. “Equally, Audi is a great company with a spectacular racing pedigree, a serious commitment to GT racing, and a great desire to forge an alliance to continue both of our winning traditions far into the future.
“They know how to win, we know how to win, and we both are totally focused on doing just that. This is a strong foundation for a long and successful relationship.”
Considered to be the most successful GT3 car in the world, the R8 claimed 40 wins and 113 podiums in 211 races in 2012 alone, as well as finishing 1-2 in class in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
With many teams, particularly in the GTD category, starting with a clean sheet of paper, team manager Eric Ingraham felt the timing was right to make the move to a new manufacturer.
“Going into next year, we’ve got a new racing series, a new class and it would be a new car for us, no matter what. From a car standpoint and a technical standpoint, it’s a low impact year to do it in terms of that,” Ingraham said.
“Our intent is to be competitive as quickly as possible. The R8 is a proven car in Rolex GT and we’re very confident it will be competitive immediately. It’s a known commodity in endurance racing worldwide.”
The move comes after running Porsches for the last ten seasons, which included a six-year run as a factory backed operation in the ALMS GT class.
Ingraham stressed the decision to go with Audi in GTD was not influenced by their initial negotiations with Porsche to run its works GT Le Mans program for 2014, which went to CORE autosport.
“We wouldn’t have made this change to do something for one year,” Ingraham added. “It’s a big decision obviously, and I know some of our fans are going to love it and some of our fans are not going to love it. But it’s really about what puts us in a great position as a team for the long-term.
“Audi is very committed to GT racing and GT Daytona and this car in the TUDOR Championship. We think it was a great thing to do and the right time to do it and would have only done it with commitment, as we do with everything on the team.”
The Lizards got their first taste of the R8 last month in a test at Putnam Park, with the team set to take delivery of their own cars at Audi Sport Customer Racing USA’s headquarters in Indiana this week.
Both cars are slated to take part in the official pre-season tests at Sebring and Daytona, beginning this weekend.