Despite not a single North American customer having yet to officially confirm a program for 2016, Audi is anticipating a grid of four to five of the new Audi R8 LMS cars in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year.
Speaking to Sportscar365, Romolo Liebchen, Head of Audi Sport customer racing, said multiple deals are in the process of being finalized that will likely see the German manufacturer be well represented on the GT Daytona class grid.
“It looks like we’re very strong,” Liebchen told Sportscar365. “We already have increased production numbers and it looks like we’re going to 50 cars [worldwide] for next year.”
Liebchen said demand for the second-generation mid-engined sports car has increased in recent months, due to a number of other GT3 manufacturers unable to promise deliveries of their new machinery in time for the start of the 2016 season.
While Audi lost its flagship IMSA customer, Paul Miller Racing, to Lamborghini, it’s understood a handful of high-profile teams are in line to make the switch to the new R8 LMS next year. Liebchen, however, would not reveal the identities of the teams.
Sportscar365, though, has learned that Magnus Racing, Walker Racing and defending Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS champions Stevenson Motorsports have all been linked to possible 2016 programs with Audi.
The first of five chassis allocated to the U.S. market arrived Stateside earlier this month, with 15 prospective customers having taken part in a test at Road Atlanta the day after the Petit Le Mans.
Liebchen said further testing and development with the car has taken place ahead of its North American race debut in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“We learned with the old car that you have to adapt the car significantly to the Continental Tire,” he said.
“For us, it was very surprising with the new car, obviously, it’s not so difficult. Maybe it’s also because of downforce and everything, life is a little easier.
“The GRAND-AM version of the R8 didn’t really create downforce. The GT3 version is different.”
Despite Audi being firmly invested to the new-look GTD class, Liebchen has expressed concerns of the category not living up to its full potential, given IMSA’s limitation of manufacturer involvement to its Automotive Partners only.
“I’m a little worried about the situation of the entry fees IMSA is asking for the manufacturers,” he said. “I have the feeling that not everybody will pay for it.
“This is not a good thing because maybe we will be missing one, two or three brands. But I’ve only heard rumors.”