GT Daytona McLaren 720S GT3
- Paul Holton
- Matt Plumb
"RACING TO THE TOP"
(Audi Magazine No. 113, Fall 2017, pages 078-083. Reprinted by permission.)
There is no denying the exhilaration of motorsports—especially if you’re behind the wheel. Racing drivers are true athletes, piloting their machines at high speed on tracks all around the world. “You’re always right at the limit, finding that fine line between having grip and losing adhesion,” said 20-year-old driver Paul Holton. He drives for Compass Racing, a professional team with Audi Sport customer racing.
The Audi Sport customer racing program provides Audi Sport customers with race cars, technical support, and leadership to succeed at the professional racing level. The teams compete at races like the Rolex 24 At Daytona or at the club racing level, where enthusiasts can compete at local tracks.
Compass Racing (or C360R for short) was founded by Karl Thomson and is one of the longest-running sportscar teams in North America. Thomson is Team Principal and a racer, having personally notched nine professional wins with his team. He’s responsible for hiring drivers for their four-car effort as well as putting together commercial partnerships. “Working with a prestige brand like Audi is an important part of our business,” he said. “It helps attract sponsorship and enables us to put together a program that is top-notch and championship-capable.” C360R currently fields an Audi RS 3 LMS in the Pirelli World Challenge and an Audi S3 in IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar challenge. In past seasons, they competed with an Audi R8 LMS and an Audi TT RS.
Soon after purchasing the Audi R8 LMS, Thomson put Holton behind the wheel. Now Holton began his second year with the team and started the summer racing season strong, driving the Audi RS 3 LMS to five podiums in six races with a 45-point lead in the Pirelli World Challenge touring car championship. “I used to be kind of loose and wild,” Holton said, “but in the past few years, I’ve been able to become much more precise in my driving.”
THE SPORT OF SUPPORT
Holton attributed a lot of his recent success in the RS 3 LMS to the support of the Audi Sport customer racing team in the paddock: “Right there in the pit lane, there’s a guy in a red jacket with four white rings on the back,” he said. “If there’s an issue, there’s someone to answer it.”
At every race, the Audi Sport team provides support, allowing team owners like Thomson to save money on parts transportation and also giving drivers like Holton access to the parts they need to stay on the track. Holton said he can go to the Audi Sport trailer, pick out the part he needs, and return to the race without stressing over a bill, which makes the process of managing a race team easier.
Holton said it’s reassuring to know that a member of the Audi Sport team will be in the paddock every time he races the team’s RS 3 LMS. “Having guys like Brad Kettler and Detlef Schmidt with us at the track gives us a real competitive advantage,” he said. “They’ve got so much experience with all of the Audi Sport customer racing cars.” That knowledge has certainly helped this season, as Holton and his C360R RS 3 LMS currently sit first in the championship points with two and five podium finishes.
FROM THE FACTORY TO THE TRACK
While Holton said this track-side support puts him at a “huge advantage,” both he and Thomson recognize that Audi Sport customer racing’s support doesn’t start and stop at the track. It starts at the factory, where Audi Sport builds technically advanced, series-certified, competitive race cars that require little additional engineering before they hit the track. “The finish and build quality of the Audi RS 3 LMS feels like it came right off the factory floor,” Thomson said. “Instead of spending our time making sure the car functions properly, we now have time for testing, which is good for our drivers who can get more seat time.”
Additional seat time is crucial when a team prepares for a race. Everything about motorsports is strategic. From how much fuel you put into the car, the weight of the driver, the ambient air temperature, “it’s a game of millimeters,” said Andrew Sattler, Branding and Marketing Manager for Audi.
To help teams maximize their performance among all of racing’s variables, Audi Sport customer racing provides teams with motorsport experts to strategize for every race. These experts also help teams lobby for balance of performance, a process which makes sure that the various manufacturers in a race—with different sizes, strategies and engine types—all operate on a level playing field.
This includes determining whether to add or reduce a car’s weight to ensure its lap time is similar to its competitors. “They’ve got to go pretty deep to make sure these cars are set up to win,” Sattler said. Senior Manager Tristan Herbert of Customer Racing and Motorsport said, “Our goal is to put a car on the grid and make sure that it can compete to win.” //