DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Paul Miller Racing, and team drivers Christopher Haase, Dion von Moltke, Bryce Miller and René Rast, drove the No. 48 Castrol EDGE Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS to a fifth-place finish in this past weekend’s season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 24 – 25.
The four-driver Audi team became increasingly competitive as the day-long race progressed, taking the lead for the first time with Rast at the wheel 11 hours into the race. From there, Rast and Haase would lead on several more occasions while von Moltke and Bryce Miller each raced to as high as second in their respective stints.
“Overall we finished fifth,” said Team Manager Mitchell Simmons. “We’re going to head to Sebring and change some things around, but I’m really happy with the Daytona results. We started off the weekend with really great expectations on where we were and felt that we and the car could go the distance.”
Haase, Bryce Miller and then team endurance driver Matt Bell used great team strategy and ever-improving setup changes to win 2014’s season-ending Petit Le Mans 10-hour endurance race. Improving the car throughout the day-long Daytona race this weekend was again the plan and it worked for more than half the race.
“We had a perfect race for 17 hours,” von Moltke said. “Well, that doesn’t win you a 24-hour race, and that’s one of the things that makes this race so difficult. You have to have the perfect race for 24 hours, we had a lot of difficulties to deal with, but somehow the team managed to keep it together.”
A race-turning setback came just under seven hours from the finish when Rast suffered a brake lock up and went off course in the West Horseshoe. Making only light contact with the barrier, he continued with no apparent damage only to have the front bodywork rip loose at speed 30 minutes later.
“We had some issues with the platform that were causing some instability and some lock up, and other things like that, which made it difficult from in the cockpit,” Bryce Miller said. “There was contact made early Sunday after a lock up, it really was pretty superficial but it was enough to loosen the bodywork and the air was able to work its way underneath and loosen things up. It got to the point it had to be addressed and we had to tape it down. It cost us a lot of time but the team did an awesome job just keeping the train going here.”
The No. 48 returned to the race three laps down and in eighth place and later lost more time when both first and second gears in the transmission were lost later on Sunday morning. Perseverance and good pit-side strategy calls ultimately let the drivers make up some ground to crack the top five.
“We knew we weren’t going to have the fastest car, but our overall performance time is pretty close to everyone else, and we felt that with our crew we could beat people out of the pits,” Simmons said. “We really set our goal to do that, to stay on the lead lap and put our hot shoes in and try to do exactly what we did at Petit, but there was a small little incident that caused some problems that we could never quite recover from, and we later lost some gears. It just kept going and we are very lucky that we didn’t have any problems as we had some engine over revs because of the gear situation. Taking that kind of torture was kind of a tribute to the Audi.”
The Rolex 24 was von Moltke’s race debut with Paul Miller Racing. He is taking over from Bryce Miller – who will focus on endurance races this year – as Haase’s full-season teammate in 2015.
“I really have to take my hat off to everyone at Paul Miller Racing,” von Moltke said. “This was my race debut with the team and I was really taken aback by how well this team works, and how hard the crew works to keep the car on track. It was a really good car. Ultimately, a good debut, we got good points and we finished a 24-hour race. It’s a testament to the team and Audi as well.”
Paul Miller Racing’s competition relationship with Audi Sport customer racing complements a longtime retail partnership the Paul Miller Auto Group has enjoyed with the manufacturer. The dealership group has included since 1976 Paul Miller Audi, one of the largest Audi dealerships in the nation, which made the team’s on-track switch to Audi a logical decision.