24H DUBAI 2013: DragonSpeed Plans World Tour With AudiU.S.-based Audi R8 LMS ultra set to contest next year’s 24 Hours of Dubai, Bathurst 12 Hour, Nurburgring 24 and 24 Hours of Spa...
It’s a sports car racing fan’s dream schedule. Dubai. Bathurst. Nurburgring. Spa. For anyone who can participate in all four of the famed GT enduros over the course a lifetime, it would be considered quite an accomplishment.
For Elton Julian and his DragonSpeed organization, they're set to do it all in a single year.
The former open-wheel standout turned sports car racing ace has outlined an ambitious plan to take his American team around the world in 2013, making stops at all of the key endurance races along the way.
His weapon of choice is a brand-new Audi R8 LMS ultra, which the Florida-based squad took delivery of in April. And while it was the first 2012-spec Audi GT3 car to hit U.S. shores, Julian had bigger plans for the mid-engined sports car than lobby with series organizers to just let it race Stateside.
"The most important thing was: What's the smartest next step for the team?” Julian said in a SPEED.com exclusive interview. “I've been doing some prototypes; I've been in the ALMS and ELMS and WEC. I've looked at the whole landscape.
"Porsche, Ferrari and Audi were all brands that were options [for GT3]. Obviously, I had an ongoing relationship with Ferrari. But I found Audi to be the best solution. It's the most prosperous brand with the most room for improvement and a place where a team can still make its mark and find a semi-works or supported solution in the future.
"We've seen the demise of this series and that [GT1 World, GT3 Europe], but that was the reshuffle of where everyone wanted to play. You see Blancpain has an average of 50 cars. You see the big endurance races that we want to do, and there's always a lot of cars, all built to the same spec."
DragonSpeed made its debut at the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona, fielding a Ferrari F430 Challenge car one year prior to the Italian manufacturer’s official foray with its 458 Italia. Since then, the team has been formulating plans around the popular GT3 platform.
While hopes of launching a standalone U.S. GT3 championship for 2013 fell by the wayside, Julian turned his attention towards preparing his team for next year and an ambitious calendar on three continents that adds up more than 100 hours of racing.
"The original plan was to get the car, get to know it, then ship it right back to Europe and do some FIA GT3 races,” he said. “But when that went downhill, I took a peek at ALMS, and they were quite negative about it, so I thought we'll just test privately. Fortunately the car turned out to be very sorted. So we're pretty comfortable already.”
Having had three days of testing already in the books, including a recent aero test at Roebling Road in Savannah, Ga., Julian feels confident of starting 2013 on the right foot.
DragonSpeed will be one of only two American teams expected to compete in the Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai in January with a yet-to-be-announced driver lineup.
It will be followed by a debut in the Bathurst 12 Hour in Australia one month later, ahead of a planned European swing that includes the Nurburgring 24, Total 24 Hours of Spa as well as a handful of VLN and other national GT3 races.
"I know we're U.S.-based and I know the car doesn't fit anywhere in America, but I don't care. I've been racing around the world my whole life and I've learned that the world is not that big,” Julian said.
"You're going to travel and you're going to race and are going to stay long and prep the car. We plan to do some national GT races in between the big races to satisfy some of our partners and customers that want to race.
"The program is pretty straight forward. We're really doing four major races. In race hours, that's two seasons worth! We know what we have to do."
A formal program launch, which will reveal the team’s primary sponsor and lead drivers, is expected for later next month.
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