AF Waltrip Le Mans Race Report
CORNELIUS, N.C. — The AF Waltrip Racing team had one goal when it took the green flag last Saturday to begin the 80th running of the 24 hours of Le Mans.
“Our goal was to be there at the finish,” said Rob Kauffman. “And, we did it!”
The team’s Ferrari 458 suffered late-race transmission issues and even overcame a Sunday morning fire in the car’s left front wheel well, but persevered to finish sixth in the GTE-AM class.
“We had to overcome a lot to do it, but we knew it wouldn’t be easy. Le Mans is a test of the car, driver and crew. You know you are going to encounter problems and your success is determined by how you overcome them. We had our fair share, but I think everyone handled it all very well.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Brian Vickers joined Kauffman and Rui Aguas behind the wheel of the No. 61 in France. Vickers called the 24 hours one of the greatest experiences of his driving career. His quick thinking by driving the burning Ferrari to the fire marshal stand to extinguish the flames saved the race for the team.
“What an amazing weekend,” said Vickers. “It’s just incredible. To get out on the track at night with more than 50 cars racing around you requires total concentration. It’s grueling to say the least. But it’s such a cool experience to share with everyone. We finished and that was our goal.”
The AF Waltrip team completed 294 laps on the eight-mile, semi-permanent circuit that utilizes roads open to the public most of the year. The team made 22 pit stops during the globally televised race.
The AF Waltrip entry is a joint effort by AF Corse team and NASCAR’s Michael Waltrip Racing. Waltrip, Kauffman and Aguas finished 13th in class at their initial appearance at Le Mans in 2011 after transmission issues ended their race at the 16-hour mark. The AF Waltrip Ferrari earned a third-place finishes at Spa in 2010 and Petite Le Mans in 2011, fourth at the Sebring 12 hours and 22nd at the Daytona Rolex 24 in 2012. The team expects to compete at Watkins Glen in the Grand Am Series on July 1 and in Indianapolis on July 7.
The No. 61 Ferrari — the team’s sister car fielded by AF Corse — took the lead in the tenth hour and kept it for the remainder of the race, winning the GTE Pro class. AF Corse was the only Italian team to take part in the world’s most popular sports car race.
“Our program with AF Corse took another step forward,” said Kauffman. “They reached their goal of victory lane while we gained more momentum. We are moving very fast through the learning curve and our program is ever improving. Plus, we had a great time and it was good racing. And I know RK Motors got some good exposure around the world.”