Audi has been active in international GT3 racing since 2009 and is one of the global players in this growth market. Audi Sport customer racing is the brand’s customer racing program. It is firmly rooted in four continents, has won 28 titles to date, and been economically successful as well. Audi built 137 race cars of the first generation. In 2015, the successor model – the Audi R8 LMS – debuted. It has been available to customer teams since the beginning of the 2016 motorsport season. In terms of aerodynamics, lightweight design, safety and customer friendliness, Audi sets standards in GT3 racing. As a result, the brand with the four rings is perfectly positioned for the fierce competition of many new models in the GT3 marketplace.
The Audi R8 LMS instantly proved in its debut season how thoroughly Audi Sport customer racing has been preparing for the new challenges. Only eleven weeks following its premiere, it won one of the toughest 24-hour events in GT racing at the Nürburgring in May 2015. In December, the race car achieved a one-two-three result in the Sepang 12 Hours. Since September 2015, quattro GmbH, which is responsible for the customer racing program, has been producing the race car. That makes Audi the first manufacturer in the competitive environment to have completely developed and started selling the most recent race car generation for the new regulations that take effect in 2016.
“The high demand proves us right,” says Heinz Hollerweger, Managing Director of quattro GmbH. “Competition is intensive – at the 2015 Spa 24 Hours, eleven automobile manufacturers were on the grid with their GT3 race cars. The market is currently expecting manufacturers to launch a lot of new vehicles. We were the first to have completed our development early and delivered cars to customers.” By April 2016, the company will be selling 55 Audi R8 LMS cars to customers in Australia, Asia, Europa and America – a significant number in racing.
Audi Sport customer racing is set on continuing its current string of racing success with them. In the 2015 season, customers competed in the title race in 22 countries on four continents, deciding two major continental series in their favor. Dutchman Robin Frijns’ first place in the Blancpain GT Series represents the most significant success in Europe while the German Christopher Mies secured the Australian GT Championship. In addition, teams and drivers in 2015 celebrated eleven other titles in sub-categories of national and international series. The triumph of Audi Sport Team WRT at the Nürburgring marked the third 24-hour race victory for Audi in the Eifel since 2012 and at Sepang (MAL), the brand won the 12-hour race for the first time.
In 2016, the Audi R8 LMS will be on the grid of all major GT racing series. In North America, the teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship are relying on the new race car. In Europe, the model will be present in Germany, France, Italy, and in the Blancpain GT Series. The International Endurance Series is on the agenda of several Audi teams as well. In Asia, the Audi R8 LMS Cup will be featuring the new race car for the first time, with events to be held in China, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea and Taiwan. In Japan, the new Audi will be on the grid in the high-caliber Super GT series and in Australia, defense of the title is the top priority. Audi Sport customer racing has also submitted entries for the new Intercontinental GT Challenge which, in addition to the 12-hour races at Bathurst (AUS) and Sepang (MAL), includes the 24 Hours at Spa (B). In the FIA GT World Cup that was held in Macau for the first time in 2015, Audi, after achieving second place, is set on battling for victory again. From 2011 to 2013, the four rings were unbeaten in the city street race.
Audi expects the 2016 season to become as challenging as no other one before it. “With our customers we’re contesting programs on four continents,” says Romolo Liebchen, Head of Audi Sport customer racing. “The sporting and business competition in the GT3 market is as fierce as never before. Plus, there are new challenges such as the first intercontinental title awaiting us.”