Rob Ferriol admits that he didn’t think his Team Hardpoint squad would have been in a position to campaign a GT3 car this year let alone support a factory Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli entry in the team’s first year of operation.
Hardpoint has joined forces with decorated Belgian outfit Team WRT to field Audi’s lone factory-supported entry in this weekend’s Indianapolis 8 Hour, in what’s been a continuation of the team’s rapid expansion and increased relationship with the German manufacturer.
Having initially planned a full-season IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge program with an Audi R8 LMS GT4, Hardpoint expanded into the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in July with an Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo and has since now taken the challenge of undertaking three long-distance endurance races over the next six weeks.
According to Ferriol, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately helped accelerate his team’s goals as the year progressed.
“At the beginning of the season when we started the team, part of the long-term vision was to be in [GT3] obviously, but the other part was to trend in the direction to where we’d be in a position as a privateer customer team to support a factory entry,” Ferriol told Sportscar365.
“That was nothing I thought was going to happen this year. But I think we’ve had a really good partnership with Audi throughout the season. We’ve collaborated a lot and they’ve brought a lot to the table.
“We stepped in with the GTD car when they needed us to.
“They came to us a few weeks back and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to give you guys an opportunity to field the car at Indy. Would you be interested?’
“Of course the answer is always going to be yes.”
Ferriol explained that WRT has provided both engineering and personnel support, as well as the use of one of its Audi chassis for the weekend, which the German manufacturer has specifically flown in for the second round of the IGTC season.
Hardpoint regular Spencer Pumpelly is joined by Audi Sport customer racing factory drivers Markus Winkelhock and Mirko Bortolotti.
“It’s a blend,” Ferriol said of the team makeup this weekend.
“It will be myself and Will [Bamber, Hardpoint team manager], a couple other guys from our side and then we’ll have engineering and mechanic support from WRT and we’ll go out and see if we can be successful.
“We’ve been fortunate to have some Audi representation from Germany in the shop the last week or so.
“That’s helped us and allows us to learn a bit more about the car from their perspective, learn about what’s been more successful in other parts of the world with the Audi platform and ideally set us up for success [this weekend].”
When asked on their expectations for the first-ever professional endurance race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ferriol said “success” would be a podium finish.
“If you look at Audi’s performance, you look at WRT’s performance over in Europe, I think they bring a lot of success and knowledge to the table,” he said.
Indy 8H Experience to Help Team “Learn at Faster Rate”
Ferriol believes the team’s experience this weekend will help prepare them for its Motul Petit Le Mans and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring debut, which have been added to the team’s WeatherTech Championship schedule.
It has resulted in a busy stretch of racing, with the team having come off last weekend’s WeatherTech Championship round at Mid-Ohio and also set to contest IMSA’s GT-only race at Charlotte Motor Speedway next weekend.
“That was part of the calculus on our end, as a team as we work through the decision cycle to do Indy, it’s going to help us learn at a faster rate,” Ferriol said.
“It’s going to show us what right looks like and allow us to evolve and develop our program much quicker in a very real setting before we head into Petit [Le Mans].
“You’ve got these very compressed schedules. We have five events over the next six weeks.
“It stresses your systems so it forces you to look at the systems and really hone that in a very short period of time.
“From that perspective, it is a good year to try a lot of new things because you’re under pressure the entire year. You’re under time pressure, you’re under competitive pressure.
“It really tests to see where your weak points are so when we do flow into next year — which we hope is somewhat a normal season — you’ll be that much more prepared than if this was a more routine season.
“For me, all of this is fantastic. I was a fan first, an enthusiast first. All of this is just a dream come true.”