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Audi “Defining” Scope of LMDh Program’s Customer Side

Audi taking open policy to LMDh customer team entries, similar to current GT3 program…

Photo: Audi

The head of Audi Sport’s customer racing department says the manufacturer intends to provide support to a wide range of potential LMDh customer teams and that it is “not picking” which organizations go on to purchase and run its car.

Audi announced its 2023 commitment to LMDh last November and subsequently outlined that it would be open to accommodating factory and customer racing scenarios.

While the precise nature of a potential factory team setup is unclear, Audi’s customer racing director Chris Reinke explained in a recent update that the manufacturer is taking a “factory sport-driven approach with a clear target to make it accessible to customers”.

He indicated that Audi plans to make LMDh cars available according to customer demand and noted that there will be similarities with how it has approached the global GT3 class.

Audi, which had private teams run cars during the LMP1 era, is not alone in vouching for a widespread LMDh customer support initiative, with Porsche last year highlighting the platform’s potential as an outlet to sell many cars to independent teams.

The two Volkswagen Group brands are understood to be sharing expertise on aspects of their respective LMDh programs.

“We are defining the program at the moment,” Reinke told Sportscar365. “But for me, as we run the GT3, we are not picking customers.

“We make the car available if the customer wants to purchase them.

“There will be professional organizations that may not need help and just a fine-tuning of skills, and there will be racers who most importantly get more support. Looking at all my GT3 cars running out there, I would say every single team is able to run it.

“That would also be our target on the LMDh side. It might be a high task for them, but they will receive the support from our end to achieve.

“It will be a thoroughly planned and success-driven program. As stated, it will then be my responsibility to find a spin-off for a customer racing approach.”

Reinke added that Audi is naturally keen to follow the progress of teams currently racing in the LMP2 class, the next generation of which forms the base for the LMDh car design.

However, he stressed that instances of Audi Sport-affiliated GT drivers pursuing LMP2 roles in the build-up to LMDh are programs that have “nothing to do with” Audi. Kelvin van der Linde and Christopher Mies both made their LMP2 debuts earlier this year.

Decorated Audi GT3 operator Team WRT, which has expressed interest in LMDh, won last weekend’s European Le Mans Series season-opener at Barcelona on its LMP2 return.

“The wide commitment into LMDh initiated the current hype in the LMP2 class,” said Reinke.

“For us, it’s interesting to see which customers – with what kinds of commitments, possibilities and competence – position themselves into that LMP2 class.

“When it comes to the future LMDh customer racing scenario by Audi, I would be surprised if not the majority we would recoup out of that very pool of current LMP2 teams.”

Asked for an update on the Audi car’s development, Reinke said: “At the moment it is very performance-oriented development going on, together with Porsche obviously.

“And then it has to be seen with what kind of intensity and level we will then feed the product into our customer racing environment. This is the status where we are.

“It’s about defining the product and the staging for the future. I wouldn’t put myself now under a time schedule which is undecided as per yet.

“But the rollout date is coming closer, therefore we should have clarity on what kind of playing field this car should be introduced into.

“I don’t think we will disappoint that we will have the information available when it’s needed in the market.”

When asked if Audi’s LMP2 base chassis provider has been locked in, Reinke said: “It’s not communicated yet.”

Porsche is aiming to give its LMDh car an initial rollout this year, while Acura has yet to pinpoint when its vehicle can be expected to turn wheels on the ground for the first time.

Ferrari’s hybrid-powered Le Mans Hypercar, which like the three confirmed LMDh cars is also a 2023 offering, is set to appear on track in the early months of 2022.

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

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