Audi’s withdrawal from prototype competition is unlikely to impact the German manufacturer’s GT3 customer racing program, which is expected to continue in a similar capacity next year, according to Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke.
Reinke, who joined the customer racing division from his former Head of LMP role in March, admitted final plans for next year are not determined but is optimistic of no major changes within the program.
“That’s too early to confirm at the moment as we’re still in detailed planning,” he told Sportscar365. “There’s the company’s priorities and the situation with the works operation has priority.
“We’re working together through that before we finally confirm our program.
“But having been aware of what kind of momentum the big prime events like Nürburgring and Spa have, I would be surprised if we downscale our participation from previous years.”
The German manufacturer has supported both WRT and Phoenix Racing in the key GT endurance races since the launch of the new Audi R8 LMS last year, with the teams adopting the “Audi Sport” moniker in those races.
While both WRT and Phoenix faced reduced works-supported efforts this year, in the first full year of the car’s rollout to customers, Reinke expects a similar effort to continue in 2017.
He said that the board’s decision to cancel the LMP1 program has no direct effect on its GT3 program.
“The operations of Audi Sport customer racing and Audi Sport ‘factory racing’ are completely seperate,” he said. “We do go to try and support one another when we can but they are completely independent from one another.
“We have seen [Audi Sport factory drivers] Marco Bononomi and Filipe Albuquerque running within the GT program this year, which resulted in this [cooperation].
“We’re not moving anywhere closer to a factory effort. The customer racing program has a clear vision and target to be a profitable operation for motorsport products applied to customers and that’s where it will stay.
“From the level, that will not be influenced by the situations that we face in the WEC at the moment.”