It may be one of the toughest endurance races in the world, but the Nürburgring 24 Hours is the perfect occasion to give a competition debut to the new Audi R8 LMS GT4, according to Audi Sport customer racing boss Chris Reinke.
Intended to fill the breach between Audi’s GT3 and TCR platforms, the GT4 model is currently being developed ahead of a global release next year.
Two cars have been entered into the SPX class for un-homologated machinery under the Audi Sport Team Phoenix banner, with European GT4 champion Peter Terting assigned to both cars as a reference driver.
Having completed a limited testing program before the event, Audi’s primary objective is to get both cars to the finish and collate as much data as possible, however Reinke says that he had no concerns about choosing the 24 Hours for the GT4’s first appearance.
“Some people say are you brain-dead to go that early in the development phase to the Nordschleife, but it’s not brain-dead, it’s brave. The sooner we get it out of the way, the better it is,” Reinke told Sportscar365.
“This is what we came out here for, to take it onto the most demanding track in the world, running it on an increased power level to put everything through stresses that in customer hands it will never see and thoroughly develop our product to give the customer everything they can hope for.
“It’s the biggest customer racing event in Europe, so we want to showcase the car, we want to make the scene aware that it exists, but we want to have the best possibility to develop it, so the demanding track of the Nordschleife couldn’t be better.
“Expectations are never low, we have high expectations and I can’t wait to have it out there racing.”
Terting, who last raced for Audi in the DTM in 2003, was selected for his extensive experience in GT4 machinery and is confident that the event will be beneficial in the car’s development.
“We will use it as a test, clearly we want to finish the race and have a good result, but our main target will be to collect mileage in race conditions and the 24-hour race especially here in the Green Hell is perfect for that,” Terting said.
“The car is not ready yet 100 percent to be done at the full potential, but we’re moving forward step by step.
“It was already interesting in the free practice session because we were driving on two different suspension setups, so I could do a few laps in this car, come back into the pits and swap cars so I have a good comparison. This helps us clearly because we can move on faster.”
The two cars will start from 45th and 47th positions this afternoon, with the No. 17 entry shared by Terting, Alexander Mies, Joonas Lappalainen and ex-Formula 1 driver Alex Yoong lapping in 8:51.938, just 36 seconds off the outright pole.
“Effectively this is pretty much still like a road car, the inputs you have to do in the steering, the brakes, the throttle have to be a little bit more gradual, but it’s still a very fast race car,” Yoong said.
“The rear wing and the front splitter are very benign compared to a GT3 car, so there’s a lot less downforce and it’s quite a bit heavier, but when I did the first roll-out of the car at Vallelunga, I was very surprised with the downforce of the car.
“It felt pretty stable, which is good because there are a lot of high-speed corners around here and should make the car quite a pleasure to drive.”
Reinke confirmed that future outings for the GT4 this year have yet to be discussed and will be contingent on its performance in the 24-hours, but that it is unlikely to race as part of a full championship until 2018.
“A big milestone is this 24-hour race to see what has been proven, to see what we have to investigate deeper and based on the area of development we will decide on which track we want to prove that,” he added.