|APR Motorsport will debut its Audi R8 GRAND-AM in the 50th anniversary running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona|
OPELIKA, Ala. – Bolstering its first effort on the Rolex 24 At Daytona, APR Motorsport is proud to announce that Emanuele Pirro – a man synonymous with Audi and success in endurance racing – will be behind the wheel of the no. 51 APR Motorsport Audi R8 GRAND-AM for this year's 24 hour classic.
"I would like to thank APR for giving me this opportunity to drive in one of the classic 24 hour races," said Pirro. "I have a lot to learn and I hope to be able, together with the rest of the APR Motorsport team, to finish the race in a good position to make the best possible introduction of the Audi R8 Grand-Am in the American market. I know the race will be super competitive. I am ready for it, I am well trained, I am in very good shape and very motivated. I will have a very open-minded approach, as I have very limited experience in the GT class, although I have overtaken tons of them in ten years of prototype racing!"
Pirro's success with Audi dates back to 1994, when he took the Italian Touring Car Championship at the wheel of an Audi 80 sedan. Sports car fans in America will undoubtedly link him to Audi's legendary R8 and R10 LMP racers, which Pirro drove to five wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as two championships in the American Le Mans Series. After retiring from active competition with Audi, Pirro drove in select ALMS races in the Drayson Lola – earning himself a spot on SpeedHunters.com's Greatest 20 Overtakes with a daring move to take the lead at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2010.
However, despite his many successes with Audi at LeMans, Daytona holds a special place in Pirro's heart as he scored a class win in the 1981 race at the tender age of 19. Pirro finished fifth overall that year, driving the Jolly Club Lancia with Martino Finotto and Carlo Facetti.
"The Rolex 24 At Daytona has a very special meaning for me," said Pirro. "It was my very first car race outside of Italy, driving the Lancia Montecarlo Turbo in the World Endurance Championship opening round. My racing experience was very limited and the longest race I had done was 25 minutes. I remember the first time I saw the track I was almost shocked! After this fantastic experience, when I came back to Italy I was celebrated as a hero. I never went back and now, after 31 years, I am really excited about it."
Rounding out the driver lineup for APR Motorsport will be Venezuelan Nelson Canache. A two-time champion in the Venezuelan Super Touring GT class, Canache spent his 2011 season competing in the Seat Leon Super Cup in Mexico as well as the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Championship. This will be the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for the native of Caracas.
"I am extremely excited for my first attempt at the Rolex 24 at Daytona," said Canache. "Daytona is one of the most famous racetracks in the world, and the 24 Hours is well-known in Venezuela. APR Motorsport is a great team and I think we are going to have a great run in the 24 Hours later this month."
With the driving lineup of the no. 51 APR Motorsport Audi R8 Grand-Am solidified, Stephen Hooks, President and CEO of APR, is anxiously awaiting the green flag at the Rolex 24 At Daytona at the end of the month.
"To have the chance to bring Emanuele on board for the Rolex 24 At Daytona is a dream come true," said Hooks. "He's one of the most successful endurance racers of our time and a hero to Audi fans all over the world. For us, he will be a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience that we, as a team, can draw from. We aren't underestimating the challenge of finishing the Rolex 24 at Daytona, but having Emanuele join APR gives everyone a big boost of confidence.
"Nelson tested with us recently and he showed outstanding pace and gave great feedback in an unfamiliar car, setting a track record in his second on-track session. He will be a great addition to the team of Dion, Dr. Jim, Ian, and of course, Emanuele."
The APR drivers will get behind the wheel of the no. 51 APR Motorsport Audi R8 GRAND-AM for the first time at this weekend's Roar Before the Rolex 24, Friday through Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.