With the potential of the GT Daytona category to embrace a wide range of FIA GT3 cars next year, the latest development for United SportsCar Racing has caught the attention of a number of manufacturers, including Audi.
While currently supporting a specially built GRAND-AM version of the R8, the German automaker is hoping FIA GT3-spec R8 LMS ultras will be legal for USCR competition next year, according to Brad Kettler, director of operations for Audi Sport customer racing USA.
“That’s something we’re really optimistic about because if that happens, that would allow us to sell the exact same product as sold worldwide. It would simplify things a great deal for us,” Kettler said.
Kettler, as well as Romolo Liebchen, head of Audi Sport customer racing and quattro GmbH, had meetings with the USCR technical staff last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in efforts to better understand the technical regulations for the GTD category next year.
One of the current hiccups for FIA-homologated GT3 cars are the size of the roll cages, as GRAND-AM previously mandated a slightly thicker cage.
That rule forced Audi, as well as Ferrari, to build GT3-based cars specifically for the Rolex Series, which resulted in higher costs for U.S. customers, as well as international teams with current FIA-spec cars being unable to compete Stateside.
“For us to produce cars for the end of the year, we need to know how to build them,” Kettler said. “If we have to use this different roll cage architecture, we’re right on the limit of being able to produce cars for that, even as of right now.
“It would be far more advantageous for us to build the standard [FIA] car. It would streamline a lot of things in the parts operation. It would drop the costs of the car a little bit because we won’t have to build it on a special production line. I’m really hopeful that this will take place.
Other modifications, such as the elimination of traction control and anti-lock brakes, had to be made on the base cars for Rolex Series competition.
With USCR reportedly considering the use of those driver aids, which come standard on GT3 cars, Kettler says enabling those systems, along with other aero upgrades, could easily be done to transform the existing GRAND-AM-spec Audis into full FIA GT3 trim.
“The car is completely updatable,” he said. “There’s nothing about the current GRAND-AM car that can’t be updated. That’s one of the things about our platform as it’s been consistent from the very beginning. Even if you had a car from 2009, you could update it to current stuff.”
In fact, Kettler’s group recently converted the ex-Oryx Racing GRAND-AM car into FIA GT3 spec, complete with traction control and ABS, for James Courtney in the Pirelli World Challenge. Both systems are built into the GRAND-AM cars, making the transformation that much easier.
“Enabling [the driver aids] is quite easy,” Kettler said. “On our car, the electronic part of the ABS, including the switch gear and all of the communication serials is already in the car. It’s just the physical ABS pump and the lines are removed and blocked off. So by adding these back into a GRAND-AM car, you can have functioning ABS systems.”
Kettler says he hopes to have up to six customer Audis racing in the GTD category next year, including its most recent customer, Fall Line Motorsports, which purchased the R8 campaigned by Rum Bum Racing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
While there is currently only one GRAND-AM-spec car still available from the factory, a number of others, including the APR Motorsport’s entry, are up for sale privately.
However, the demand appears to be on the rise, especially if full FIA GT3 spec cars are allowed. It’s understood an existing Daytona Prototype team is eyeing an expansion to the GTD ranks next year, potentially with a R8 LMS ultra.
“I believe it would be attractive to people who are looking to invest in the 2014 season,” Kettler said of the Audi R8 LMS ultra. “The car is a fresh face. It has a decent [Balance of Performance]. The ultra is a pretty good value in the marketplace.
“You can use it anywhere you want and it’s going to be consistent for a couple more years. Your investment in that car is going to be something you can continue to grow and work with.”