Moorespeed completed a successful IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Roar Before the Rolex 24 Test Friday and Saturday at Daytona International Speedway (DIS), marking the first appearance in official IMSA competition of the No. 19 CAG/Moorespeed Audi R8 LMS GT3, which makes its GT Daytona (GTD) class debut in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 24 – 27.
Six on-track sessions were held over the two days, including a preliminary qualifying session and night practice on Saturday, with Will Hardeman, Alex Riberas and Andrew Davis co-driving in preparation for Moorespeed’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut in the Rolex 24 in three weeks.
Moorespeed and its drivers, who will be joined by Markus Winkelhock for the Rolex 24, shook off an early-Friday incident to get in the mix with the GTD competition and record a productive number of laps on the 3.56-mile DIS road course.
“We accomplished all the programs we had planned,” Moorespeed President David Moore said. “The weekend was good. It gave us more time to be together as a team, and as long as we’ve got each other’s back, we can succeed. We have some really good experienced guys, and they all got along instantly. Markus was with us in spirit, and he’s been keeping up with everything that’s going on this weekend.”
The No. 19 Audi steadily improved through each daytime run, culminating with the weekend’s top lap of 1:46.170 (120.706 mph) by Davis in Saturday’s special qualifying run held to determine Rolex 24 pit stalls and garage space assignments.
The qualifying lap was the 10th overall fastest in the 20-car GTD field and second fastest of the session for an Audi among the four R8 LMS GT3 entries testing at the Roar.
“The Audi is good,” Moore said. “I’d like to be a little bit quicker, but hopefully we’ll get there. I know the drivers are doing their best, and that’s all I can ask for. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks, and we’ll give it our best shot.”
Hardeman, who joins his Moorespeed teammates in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD debut, will co-drive the full season with Riberas. Hardeman has previously raced with Moorespeed in IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA competition the last four years.
“The weekend has been pretty positive,” Hardeman said. “I’m getting more comfortable with the equipment myself. The more seat time I get, I feel like I get twice as good in this car. The kind of driving style that the Audi likes is slightly different than what I’m used to. The Audi likes smooth driving. It’s not as edgy and demanding as the Porsche GT3 Cup car.”
Hardeman’s more experienced co-drivers helped develop and set up the car to the unique challenges of Daytona.
“All three drivers are happy with how the car behaves now,” Riberas said. “It’s never perfect, but I think it’s getting there. If we’re able to be fast during the Rolex 24 At Daytona, I think we have a good shot to win it.”
Davis will co-drive with Hardeman and Riberas in 2019’s four rounds of the Michelin Endurance Cup, which begins with the Rolex 24. Davis is set for his 17th consecutive Rolex 24 and has earned GT-class podium finishes twice in the twice-around-the-clock race.
“It was a difficult two-day test, but sometimes those adversities bring a team together and I saw that,” Davis said. “We missed very little time and we made tons of progress. I really think we’re coming out of this test learning a lot about the new Audi package, and how it reacts to the Michelin tire.”
Next up for Moorespeed is the 57th Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 24 – 27, the opening IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event of the 50th Anniversary IMSA Season.