Team Hardpoint will expand its effort in IMSA competition, having announced a step up to the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with an Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo for Spencer Pumpelly and Rob Ferriol.
The duo, who will also continue in Michelin Pilot Challenge with its Audi R8 LMS GT4, are set to enter the GTD ranks beginning with next month’s WeatherTech 240 at Daytona.
The car is slated to contest the WeatherTech Sprint Cup rounds only.
Revealed in a Midweek Motorsport exclusive on Wednesday, Ferriol explained that expanding to GTD this year was fueled by the downtime caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The last four months of the pandemic shutdown has given us the opportunity to continue maturing our own internal program with the team, as well as the GT4 program,” Ferriol told MWM host John Hindhaugh.
“We had a discussion about this earlier in the season before it got kicked off. We looked at targeting 2021 for a potential move into GTD.
“What the shutdown allowed us to do was to continue refining the team internally, testing, maturing the program, bonding as a team and really getting procedures in place.
“When the opportunity came up a few short weeks ago it was a pretty quick decision. We took a couple of hours to bat it around and said we’re in a lot different place now than we were six months ago.
“It’s a good opportunity for us but it’s also good for the sport. It’s good for the series. It’s good for IMSA. Let’s get another car out there. We have the unique opportunity to be able to do it, so let’s do it.”
Ferriol and Pumpelly have worked together since Ferriol’s professional debut, with Pumpelly beginning as a driver coach before moving into a co-driving role in several Pilot Challenge outings last year.
The duo also took part in last year’s FIA Motorsport Games at the wheel of a Ferrari 488 GT3, which marked Ferriol’s GT3 debut.
Pumpelly, meanwhile, will be making his full-time return to the IMSA GTD ranks for the first time since 2016.
He will continue on as a third driver in GRT Magnus’ Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo for the Michelin Endurance Cup rounds.
“The GTD class features some of the toughest racing anywhere but with the Hardpoint team behind us we will have great cars and all the tools at hand to get Rob acclimated to the series,” Pumpelly said.
“I’ve watched Rob since he first entered IMSA in the GT3 Cup series and I’ve had the pleasure of watching him grow as a driver and tackle new challenges.
“Seeing him in the GTD class will be a natural next step in his racing career.”
Hardpoint could be the only Audi GTD entrant for the balance of the season following Team WRT Speedstar’s run in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke previously told Sportscar365 that he was hopeful of a full-time presence in the WeatherTech Championship.
Rick Ware Racing was initially tipped to contest the Sprint Cup races although the status of that program is unclear.
“We’re very proud to represent Audi as we take another step forward at Team Hardpoint,” Ferriol added.
“Across the Hardpoint ecosystem, our goal is to bring greater value to new and existing professional racing drivers, while increasing awareness and accessibility of the sport, and that starts right here at Team Hardpoint with our racing program.
“What better team to partner with, than Audi Sport customer racing and their family of IMSA-ready cars across TCR, GT4, and GT3.
“From the Hardpoint Paddock Foundation that we started to assist crew workers during the COVID-19 economic downturn, to campaigning a brand new car in GTD, we really have set a goal to lean in and help bring some resiliency to this sport.
“We plan to be involved for a long time, and we’re thankful we’re in a position to enter the WeatherTech Championship even sooner than we had originally planned.”