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Audi Restructuring North American GT Customer Support

Audi restructuring North American customer support, looking at “how to act on the market”…

Photo: Geoffrey M. Miller/IMSA

The future extent of Audi’s support to GT teams in North America is “to be seen” according to the manufacturer’s head of customer racing amid a “restructure” of activities.

According to Chris Reinke, who oversees Audi Sport’s global customer racing efforts, the German company is providing heavily-reduced support to customer outfits in North America due to a “strategic” refocus in the region and a lack of volume in sales.

No Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos were on the grid at last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, where a total of 10 manufacturers were represented in the GT3-based ranks.

Furthermore, no Audi team has come forward with plans to contest other IMSA races this year, while its presence in Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS is also uncertain.

Carbahn with Peregrine Racing and NTE Sport fielded Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos in the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, however both teams are now with Lamborghini.

The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge grid lacks Audi GT4s, but some RS 3 LMS examples are running in the TCR class.

“I think with the American market, we as an operation try to evaluate new possibilities and how to act on the market,” Reinke told Sportscar365.

“This is to be seen. At the moment, it is to be seen how our new strategy is picked up and how to approach the customer racing side in the U.S.

“There has been a strategic focus on future fields of activities, rather e-tron based, by the mothership.

“That led into the situation that we had to restructure our part of the customer racing operation in the U.S.

“It’s not a budget thing. I think it’s more an intention thing. It’s less focus, passion, support. But it’s not always about money.”

Precise details of the restructure are unclear but Reinke indicated that “direct support” for teams is “not at the level we used to do.”

Teams running GT3, GT4 and GT2 cars require access to mechanical parts throughout each racing season, as well as engineering assistance when needed.

“That is defined for this year, and now we have to review how the market will react to it,” Reinke said.

“From our end, a decision is clear and the customers are informed about the new setup.

“The first result is that there was no GT3 car in Daytona. But I think it’s too early to judge.

“If this was the main event with limited support, it’s not that attractive. But throughout the year it might be seen that it will continue. The evaluation will happen after more than one race.”

According to Reinke, another reason for Audi’s reduced GT racing support in North America is a lack of traction in the market over the last couple of years.

“In Europe, we attract customers by a certain level of support and it’s picked up,” he said.

“It has become a growing business case for us. I believe that in the United States we have supported quite a bit in the past, but the market hasn’t picked up the volume that it would justify at the moment.

“Therefore, if we don’t scale down quite a bit, to what has been reflected by the market… let’s see what the reaction is to it.

“Customer racing lives out of business cases in each region. This is the only way that customer racing can run sustainably. Therefore, we had to try a different model in the U.S.”

Reinke hopes that Audi Sport can resurrect its presence in the North American market further down the line and be represented on grids more healthily in the future.

Audi has three class victories in the four major IMSA endurance races, having won the Rolex 24 with Magnus Racing in 2016 and Motul Petit Le Mans with Paul Miller Racing in 2014 followed by Land-Motorsport in 2017.

It also won last year’s Indianapolis 8 Hour with Audi Sport Team Sainteloc, en route to a fourth Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli manufacturers’ title.

The company now has an opportunity to stoke renewed GT3 interest with the rollout of its updated customer-focused R8 LMS Evo II model. Last week marked the start of Evo II deliveries to teams ahead of the European, Asian and Australian seasons. 

“My ambition has always been, and will always be, to grow customer racing worldwide,” Reinke said.

“Through the decades of success for Audi in U.S motorsport, [reducing support] was for us not an exciting step to take. For sure we will develop models of how to grow strong out of the current situation.

“For the moment it is what it is, and we will see how the market reflects to it and how to grow.

“It is for sure a counter situation that we have in the U.S, because elsewhere in the world we are growing. Even so, we believe that we have, from the sporting substance, a persuading product.

“For me, we tick a lot of boxes that make customer racing desirable everywhere else in the world. I still believe, why shouldn’t that work in the States?”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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