Audi Sport is in the process of finalizing the factory and customer racing structure for its upcoming LMDh program according to the manufacturer’s customer racing boss Chris Reinke.
The 13-time Le Mans-winning brand is set to return to the French endurance classic in 2023 with a dual FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program planned.
While factory teams are expected to be represented in both series, Reinke said a decision on its final structure will have an influence on how customer teams are integrated.
Audi has relied on so-called “strategic” or factory-supported entries for its global GT3 operation, in providing additional resources to its top-performing customer teams in key events.
It’s unclear if the same strategy could be deployed for the LMDh program.
“There’s no factory team defined [yet],” Reinke told Sportscar365.
“Will we steer it more by strategic entries? Will we steer it more by pure factory teams? The factory side of the program has to decide that.
“Once that has been decided, we’ll have our interpretation of a logical spinoff for customer racing.”
Reinke, who was formerly in a leadership position with Audi’s factory LMP1 program, expressed pros and cons to both types of operations.
Sportscar365 understands that former Le Mans winner and WEC champion Allan McNish has been charged with leading the factory side of the program.
“This is a very good working model for the GT3 world where we have business-orientated operations as partners that we utilize here and there,” Reinke explained.
“On the other side, DTM or the former LMP team had very good examples of how factory programs can be efficiently be run.
“Now we’re joining these two.
“Therefore also internally we have to find compromises in between different philosophies. Now we have to create a common one together.”
Despite sources indicating to Sportscar365 that both Porsche and Audi would both be limited to four customer LMDh cars for the first season in 2023 — two each in IMSA and WEC — Reinke said that a decision has not yet been taken on that front.
He said the defined number of customer cars remains “open” for the moment.
“We haven’t discussed certain limits or final targets,” said Reinke, who is in charge of the customer LMDh program.
“Once we need the product, then we need the fields of activities, the positioning of the car within a certain marketing strategy and logic.
“On top of that we will have enough customer interest to see how we bring it all under one head that makes sense for all involved.”
Reinke said that interest in the yet-to-be-named LMDh car has been “where we thought it would be” with a number of “high-end” Audi GT3 customers in dialogue.
It’s understood that several accomplished LMP2 teams are also involved in discussions.
When asked if Audi will be able to deliver customer cars in time for the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Reinke said: “It would be my target, yes. It is ambitious but still possible.”
Audi Merging Factory Driver Roster into Single Pool
The recent restructuring of Audi’s motorsports activities will result in a single pool of factory drivers.
Previously, drivers in LMP, DTM and Formula E had been contracted to Audi AG, whereas factory GT3 pilots fell under Audi Sport GmbH.
Reinke said it will not theoretically result in any changes as the two groups had interchanged drivers in the past.
“For future contracts it will be one drivers pool,” he said. “We operate as one but conceptually we have certain overhangs that are theoretical in nature.
“On the practical side I can walk up to Rene [Rast] as Allan [McNish] can walk up to Mattia [Drudi].”