Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke believes the Intercontinental GT Challenge is “the right product” for the German manufacturer to support, as the upstart championship embarks on its inaugural round in the U.S.
The German manufacturer has continued to utilize locally based teams for its campaign, with Pirelli World Challenge regulars Magnus Racing gaining factory status for the first time in this weekend’s California 8 Hours at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
It comes following a victorious works debut for Audi Sport Team Sainteloc in the Total 24 Hours of Spa, which has put Audi and Christopher Haase (above, with Reinke) into the championship lead with two rounds to go.
“For us it’s important to support the Intercontinental GT Challenge because we really believe the product is the right one,” Reinke told Sportscar365.
“We also confirm that we always want to use local teams to get involved.
“We ran Bathurst with Melbourne Performance Centre, in Spa with our European lineup and here it was important to integrate Magnus into the setup, to live that spirit.
“It’s a very important market for Audi and we’re happy to be part of the grid. We have a good lineup and I’m happy. The grid in general looks strong.”
The factory supported Magnus effort sees team regular Pierre Kaffer being joined by fellow Audi GT3 pool drivers Markus Winkelhock and Kelvin van der Linde, who claimed victory in this year’s Nürburgring 24.
Van der Linde’s Nürburgring 24 winning co-drivers, Connor De Phillippi and Christopher Mies, fresh off GT Daytona class honors in last weekend’s Motul Petit Le Mans, meanwhile spearhead Audi Sport Team Land’s effort in Monterey, alongside Haase.
While not carrying works status this weekend, a third all-pro Audi has been entered by Belgian Audi Club Team WRT for newly crowned Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup champions Robin Frijns and Stuart Leonard, plus Jake Dennis.
Reinke said the spreading of its support across multiple teams, after being largely focused on WRT and Phoenix Racing in past years, has helped the manufacturer achieve greater success.
“In general, we treat all of our customers the same, to have an equal right, equal possibilities. We also have proved that when we go for those strategic entries,” he said.
“There have been [some people] suspicious whether it’s really like that and we’ve proven it is in Spa and Nurburgring.
“New-coming teams can beat our established partners. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s equal treatment for everyone.”
Local Teams to Likely Be Utilized in Sepang
While not yet confirmed, Reinke expects locally based Audi teams to be employed for December’s season-ending Motul Sepang 12 Hours as well.
“I would be surprised if we don’t stay in line with the philosophy for the first three races of that campaign,” he said.
“I think what’s really unique about it is that we have a race per continent, and iconic or legendary races.
“Maybe the only one that might fall short of that status at the moment is Sepang but I can’t wait for Suzuka next year.”