Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke believes its entry into the GT4 market was the next logical step for the German manufacturer, as it rapidly expands its customer racing offerings.
Audi unveiled its new R8 LMS GT4 car on Tuesday, on the eve of the first press day of the New York International Auto Show, in the stylish Highline Stages, not far from Broadway.
With the launch of the RS 3 LMS touring car for the TCR class and the R8 LMS GT4 within six months, times have been busy for the customer racing department.
The fact that Audi was looking into possibilities to expand into the GT4 class was no longer a secret when Audi sent its TT over to take part in SRO’s Balance of Performance test at Paul Ricard last year.
Reinke explained the global reach of the R8 was a determining factor in going with the mid-engined sports car for GT4 competition.
“It is our policy to market our customer racing cars worldwide,” Reinke told Sportscar365. “And it was obvious that the worldwide acceptance of the R8 as a GT4 race car was bigger than for the TT, so that is why we decided to chose the R8.
“The TT could have worked in GT4 as well, its size is similar to that of a Porsche Cayman, for instance, but the appeal of the R8 as a sports car is bigger.”
While Audi had long been linked to a building a GT4 car, Reinke said recent developments in the GT3 landscape, and momentum towards the growing GT4 platform, helped confirm the customer program.
“At the moment, GT3 is moving more and more towards a Pro-Am class, and in some cases even fully Pro,” he said.
“That is an environment in which some gentlemen drivers, for whom the GT3 class initially was created, are no longer feeling comfortable.
“For such drivers, GT4 is a perfect alternative and the number of series in which GT4 cars can compete is growing rapidly.
“Therefore, adding a GT4 car to our customer racing portfolio was a logical next step. It fills the gap between our RS 3 LMS as an entry-level car and the R8 LMS GT3 as our top class car.”
Drivers from Audi’s vast GT pool are testing the new R8 LMS GT4 at Vallelunga this week, with the first competitive outing set for the Nürburgring 24 next month.
Reinke confirmed that Phoenix Racing will run two cars in the German endurance classic, explaining why the Ernst Moser-led team wasn’t announced for Audi’s works-supported line-up in the GT3 class a few weeks ago.
“Phoenix has a lot of experience at the ‘Ring, so it was obvious to go with them,” he said. “The only thing is that it had to be kept quiet until today, which led to some questions.”
Once the homologation process has been completed, customer teams will be able to purchase the car.
Audi has announced a price of 198,000 Euros ($210,000) for the car, which fits just within the maximum allowed 200,000 Euros that GT4 manufacturers jointly agreed upon.
“It is our aim to allow customer teams to compete in the Dubai 24 Hours in January,” Reinke said. “We did that with our RS 3 LMS for this year’s race in Dubai and were quite successful with it as the car won the TCR class first time out.”
Whether other races, such as the Hankook 24H of COTA in November, will be included in the test program of the R8 LMS GT4, is not yet known.
“In November, we should be ready with the test program,” Reinke added. “But you never know. First of all, however, we focus on the Nürburgring 24 Hours.”
The show car that was unveiled in New York, meanwhile, will remain in the U.S. as it will be on display during the next Pirelli World Challenge round at VIR later this month.