Gaining Ground: Oryx Racing Continues to Improve with New Audi R8
The Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park proved to be a “frustrating day at the office” for the new Oryx Racing No. 74 Audi R8 of Steven Kane and Humaid Al Masaood. The team struggled through the race with a handling imbalance compounded by contact with a Daytona Prototype.
“Bearing in mind that Barber was new to our team, both drivers, and Audi, I was happy with our progress – until the green flag was waved,” said team manager Tom Maplethorpe. “We went into the race having competed less than 100 laps around Barber. It’s important we keep reminding ourselves that everything is new to us so it will take a little time.”
The team is headquartered in Abu Dhabi with its GRAND-AM project based in Winchester, Va. Oryx made its American debut in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, finishing 32nd, and improved to 15th in the Porsche 250.
“We struggled but we finished the race, so the reliability is there,” Kane said. “There were brief phases when the Audi allowed me to set good, fast lap times before the handling deteriorated rapidly again. The team worked hard on achieving a good balance with the R8 and they did a great job for qualifying. But for whatever reason, the car’s handling was not right in the race from the start through finish.”
During the break between Daytona and Barber, the car underwent a K&C Rig test at the Morse Measurements facility in North Carolina to evaluate suspension and steering settings. They also switched from the production clutch used at Daytona to a competition version and increased the fuel tank capacity by 1.5 gallons.
The drivers also were busy. Al Masaood won a round of the Maserati Trofeo JBF RAK Series at the Dubai Autodrome while Kane claimed victory in the American Le Mans Series P1 category at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
“The boys have worked hard over the two-month break and spent a lot of time back at the shop,” Kane said. “We’re starting to understand the car from a technical point of view, and came to Barber with a lot of new ideas. We used Barber as a setup weekend and tried a number of different setups on it. Humaid did a fantastic job in qualifying. From what we’ve seen, we’re competitive but we still have a lot to learn about how the tires are going to perform during the races.”
Kane is based in England while Masaood lives in Abu Dhabi where he manages a number of businesses.
“We’re looking to continue to improve,” Masaood said. “I was bitterly disappointed with the result at Barber but it’s a case of learning more about the R8 at each race. We’re looking to continue to improve. Hopefully, we’ll make another step forward at Homestead. We’re still learning the car but it’s awesome so far.”
Maplethorpe hopes to be able to do some testing prior to the Grand Prix of Miami on April 29 – which will be the first race for both drivers in South Florida.
“I’ve never actually been to Homestead but I’ve watched it plenty on the TV and I’m excited about going there,” Kane said. “We hope to be in the fight. There’s so much scope with the car and we’re only on the tip of the iceberg at the minute, so there’s a lot more to come. The Audi product and brand is iconic and the car is fantastic in Europe so I’m sure we’ll be able to make it work over here.”