Having customer teams test the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo 2 in race scenarios ahead of its global competition debut next year gives the “best feedback” for the German manufacturer, according to its head of customer management Dirk Spohr.
Sainteloc Racing is giving the Audi GT3 second evolution its first race outing in SRO competition this weekend, at the final round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup. The car will be available to all customer teams in 2022.
The appearance forms part of Audi’s ongoing development program and also enables SRO Motorsports Group to gather data on the car for its Balance of Performance process.
Sainteloc’s outing at Barcelona on Pirelli tires with Markus Winkelhock, Finlay Hutchison and Dennis Lind follows on from Car Collection Motorsport running the Evo 2 on Hankooks in the 24H Series endurance races at Barcelona and the Hungaroring.
Spohr explained that it was necessary to work with customers in the 2021 race testing phase because the car’s premise is to be easier to drive for amateurs. He said the aim is to reduce average lap times between amateur pilots and professionals over a racing stint.
“It’s always important that you have the teams working with the car,” Spohr told Sportscar365.
“In the end, they are doing the handling of the car, so why not get them involved directly in the development, because they can give the right feedback.
“It’s very important to have a car that the team is handling. That is the best feedback we can get.
“The first Evo was tested with customers as well, but not so much as we are doing now.
“That is a really important point that we learned in the development process. It’s really important to include the driver and team customers, to include them as early as possible in a project like this. It’s important to get their needs as early as possible.”
Audi started its Evo 2 development with a global survey, in which teams from different continents pitched in with ideas for how to improve the current Evo model.
Some asked for no changes, but adaptions to existing features and new elements including an air conditioning system – which was largely requested by Asian customers – were considered and applied to the second-generation Evo.
Audi says the five main upgrade areas are aerodynamics, braking, traction control, engine characteristics and climate control. The most distinctive new feature is the rear wing.
“Here, the main point is of course the BoP to see the behavior of the car,” Spohr said in reference to the Barcelona meeting.
“The customer is also a big aspect for that. We have tested the car already in Creventic races. We need to collect as much feedback from customers as possible for that.
“Ten years ago we had only professional drivers in the cars. But here we have to think about what is the target for this car? At the end, it’s the customer. Therefore, I think it’s really important to do something like we are doing here.”
Sainteloc Racing’s technical manager Sebastien Breuil said the French squad has been satisfied with its experience of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo 2 in the track sessions held at Barcelona so far.
Winkelhock set the fourth-fastest lap time overall in Pre-Qualifying on Saturday, but the car is considered invisible in the results due to its Invitational entry status.
Sainteloc has made three orders for Evo kits to upgrade the trio of R8 LMS GT3 Evos it currently has in its stable.
“We know the previous evolution quite well,” Breuil told Sportscar365.
“We were waiting for an evolution on the engine in particular, because we were missing torque out of the corners. And it happened.
“So far we have done four sessions and the comments have been good from the drivers. Also, the driveability has improved quite a lot, because the downforce is done more by the wing than before which [makes it] easier to drive.
“Those are the two main points. The car is easier to drive and easier in traffic.”
Breuil explained that Sainteloc has been treating this weekend as a standard race event for its No. 26 crew, despite it being an experimental entry.
He also noted that finding areas that need to be tweaked further is “also part of the deal” and explains why Silver-rated driver Hutchison forms part of the testing team.
“We are an open book with SRO and showing the most performance we can get out of the car,” he said.
“We have already done a few changes in terms of setup. Our project this weekend is like a race weekend, on top of the learning process of setting up the Evolution.
“It’s very important that Finlay gives his opinion as a customer.
“For example the steering wheel is different, so the layout and colors are might be not that common for him. So he gives his opinion.
“We have Audi people here, we have a customer team, and proper customers and Pro drivers, so it’s like a melting pot where we put everything together. It’s helpful to finalize everything.”
Ortelli Noticing New Cars’ Distinct Assets
The BMW M4 GT3 is making its GTWC Europe debut this weekend and joins the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo 2 in the Invitational class at Barcelona.
Le Mans winner and multiple GT3 racing champion Stephane Ortelli drove both cars on Friday and explained afterward that each vehicle has its own distinct characteristics.
Ortelli’s job is to gather impartial data on the cars for SRO Motorsports Group to evaluate as it works to identify a baseline Balance of Performance for each product.
“The M4 is a real BMW, thanks to the straight-six engine at the front,” Ortelli told Sportscar365.
“The car is playing with you, and I enjoyed it. The Audi, we knew the rear was always a bit of an issue on entry, but now I feel like a world champion at every entry of the corner because I feel safe, which can be good for the amateurs. You also have to consider that.
“In terms of enjoyment, the M4 gave me what I wanted. In terms of stability and safety on the rear, Audi has made a big step with the [second] Evo. So they were right to use the Evo kit.
“I can be only a few tenths behind the Pro guys, but I can also feel that the amateurs would love them as well.
“They will definitely be two different cars, but they will have [their own] assets for selling them, which is what BMW and Audi want.”