With its newly acquired Audi R8 LMS joining the GT Daytona field, Karl Thomson’s Compass360 Racing becomes a welcome new addition to the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship this weekend at Lime Rock Park.
GTD has witnessed a drop off in entries year-to-year from 2014 to 2015 and with many teams still figuring out their 2016 programs, gaining a midseason new entry is rare.
But debuting now provides the next logical step for Thomson’s squad, a race-winning and championship-contending team in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, which takes the next leap with Audi this weekend.
“Obviously this is a big step for us, but it’s a step for the long-term plan of the team,” Thomson told Sportscar365.
Pierre Kleinubing and Ray Mason, teammates in the team’s previous Subaru WRX-STi in CTSC GS, will share the No. 76 Audi R8 LMS for the four sprint races the team enters this year. A Petit Le Mans appearance is possible with an additional funded driver.
Testing has occurred at Sonoma, Road America and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park ahead of this weekend’s Northeast Grand Prix.
“The car has been right on pace with where GTD times are supposed to be,” Thomson said. “It’s good for the guys to get more comfortable, especially with the aero versus a sedan we’ve had.
“We’re excited to go to Lime Rock with just PC, so it’s not such crazy traffic.”
Although Kleinubing and Mason were most recently in GS, both have had experience in slower classes in other series, so both are adapt at dealing with faster traffic passing.
“They have ran with ST cars, so they’re used to looking in mirrors,” Thomson said. “With sub-20 cars on track, I don’t think we’ll have the same issues in TUDOR race we will in the Conti race.
“At some point they’ll get passed by the PC cars. But all they really need to do is keep on pace with GTD leaders, and we have to do good pit stops and call the strategy properly.”
Most of the team’s crew that had been on the GS car will shift to the GTD car, and some ST crewmembers will assist.
Additionally, the team will have full Audi Sport customer racing support, from parts to engineers.
“Really the goal for us to have our guys learn how to do all that from Audi,” Thomson said. “They’re there as much as we want. We might as well take advantage of that collection of knowledge.”
For now, the four-race program in the remaining TUDOR sprint races of 2015 is a toe in the water effort.
For 2016, the Audi S3 program will continue in CTSC ST for its second season, and Thomson would like to run a full-season GTD program. The driver lineup, assuming GTD continues, may be fluid between sprint and endurance races.
As it is, Lime Rock will serve as a perfect introduction to TUDOR for the team and the Children’s Tumor Foundation in its home race, where “NF heroes” will be the guests on hand to watch.