The Audi R8 LMS GT4 could make its U.S. race debut in October’s California 8 Hours Intercontinental GT Challenge round, according to Audi Sport customer racing North America manager Tristan Herbert.
Herbert has revealed ambitions of an end-of-year outing for the new mid-engined sports car, as more-or-less a “demo race” for the North American market, ahead of a full rollout to customers in both Pirelli World Challenge and IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge next year.
“It would be more of a display, not-run-for points, kind of thing we’ve done in the past,” Herbert told Sportscar365. “The car would just come out, [we’d] showcase it, so customers could see it run and experience it.
“It wouldn’t be anything like a customer racing the car.”
The car, which was launched at the New York International Auto Show earlier this month, is set for its competition debut in next month’s Nürburgring 24 with Phoenix Racing, with further testing and development planned prior to its expected homologation in mid-July by the SRO.
It is on display at this weekend’s PWC round at Virginia International Raceway, with Audi having provided a technical presentation of its mid-engined V10-powered car to prospective customers on Friday.
Herbert said a run in the inaugural U.S. IGTC round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Oct. 13-15, which will be open to GT3, GT4 and Cup class machinery, would be dependent on the timing of customer deliveries, which as of now are expected to begin in November.
“We want to time it for production,” he said.”We don’t want to introduce the car, show it, start taking all these orders, and then find out production has been moved back.
“What Audi has always tried to do is release the car and make sure our customers can get it in a timely manner.”
Both Herbert and Audi Sport customer racing North America’s Director of Operations Brad Kettler wouldn’t divulge their target for total customer sales in the U.S. but are currently accepting letters of intent.
“We have tons of people interested in the car,” Herbert said. “A lot of them are old GT3 ultra customers who want to get back into the R8 but could never agree with the running costs of the GT3 car.”
Herbert admitted that the popularity and cost-effective nature of the platform will likely make the R8 LMS GT4 the “staple” in its customer racing lineup.
“If you look at IMSA and even PWC, GT3 is becoming so expensive for people to run,” he said.
“Traditionally that was supposed to be the customer racing market and with new brands like Mercedes, Lexus and Acura coming in, those all look like more factory programs than customer racing.
“I see the vision of Audi going GT4 as the customer racing staple in numbers, when you talk about volume, and GT3 becoming more of the GTLM factory-looking programs.
“It’s unfortunate as GT3 wasn’t supposed to be like that but motorsports changes on a daily basis, so I’m just happy that Audi has stepped up and we have all collaborated on how to position ourselves in the market and come out with a product in time that fits the mold of what our customers are asking for.
“They honestly are just saying, ‘We want to run the R8 but we want a cheaper car. We want to run endurance races and we want to run sprint races but we need the operating costs to come down.’
“I think the GT4 fits that market perfectly.”