The addition of Adelaide and the Nürburgring to this year’s Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup calendar was part of the “overall new strategy” to the single-make Cup, according to Audi Sport customer racing Asia director Marin Kuehl.
The new-look Cup makes its European debut this weekend, with a pair of races in support of Saturday’s twice-around-the-clock German endurance classic.
It comes two months after kicking off its season on the streets of Adelaide, as part of the iconic Virgin Australia Supercars event previously known as the Clipsal 500.
For Kuehl, expanding the Asian-based Cup’s reach to world-renowned events and circuits has gone hand-in-hand with its decision to focus entirely on amateur drivers this year.
“It’s part of the overall new strategy we’ve defined for the Cup,” he told Sportscar365.
“We said we were going to focus on developing Bronze and privateer drivers, creating an environment where they have a great racing weekend, with ambitious racing but also a learning environment.
“We also want to give the customers a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Of course we have great circuits in Asia and Asia will always be our main base.
“But what else could we do? The idea of Australia came up and quite quickly, we thought about going to Europe as well.
“Nürburgring, as an event, is the biggest 24-hour race in the world with so many cars, so many teams, it’s just exciting for a motorsport experience factor.
“We tried to give them an experience that’s more than just racing. Racing is No. 1 but there’s also additional incentives.”
A total of 16 Audis are set for this weekend’s pair of 30-minute races on the Nürburgring GP circuit, in what’s been a well-laid out logistics plan for the organization.
Kuehl said the cars and equipment were sea-freighted directly from Australia, and following this event, will be transported to China for the third round of the season at the new Ningbo International Speedway in China in early September.
“We had to look very much in detail into the schedule,” he said. “But it was workable because Adelaide is quite early so we had enough time to ship everything from Australia to Germany.
“Now we have another break where we can ship everything to Asia.”
Despite the global expansion, Kuehl has reiterated the R8 LMS Cup remains first and foremost an Asian-based series.
He indicated they would likely remain with a maximum of two overseas events per season in the years’ to come, although admitting that “anything is possible” in regards to the events.
“In the history of the Cup, we’ve always looked into new opportunities,” he said. “Like last year, we were in Suzuka for the first time. Now Adelaide and Nürburgring.
“But Asia is still the core market and it’s important for us and the drivers to be present where they come from. We will remain an Asian series.
“But I can for sure we will continue to have some signature events outside of Asia.”
Strong Starting Point for GT4
Kuehl believes this weekend’s five-car Audi R8 LMS GT4 entry is a strong starting point for the new-for-2018 class, which formally launches at the Nürburgring.
Adderly Fong and Cheng Congfu gave the cars its maiden outing in Adelaide but as an invitational basis.
“It takes time,” Kuehl said. “I’m very happy with having five cars with customers here at the Nürburging. I think that’s a very healthy number in a new segment.”
Kuehl said several open test are planned in China in the coming months for prospective customers that could join the series later this season.
“In general, in Asia, we do see a lot of positive prospects for the GT4,” he said.
“We still have to develop new drivers into motor racing in Asia and the GT4 is a good step into GT4. Having not-so-experienced drivers jump right into a GT3 is not so easy. Some can do it, some maybe not.
“We think the GT4, together with the RS 3 TCR, is a good entry level, especially if the customer really wants to do GT, then GT4 should have a good future in Asia.”