Audi Sport has confirmed its lineup for the Suzuka 10 Hours, with factory drivers listed in three of the German manufacturer’s cars.
A total of five Audi R8 LMS cars will contest the third round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, which takes place on Aug. 26.
The absence of IGTC points leader Robin Frijns, who is on DTM duty that weekend, has prompted Audi to spread its other championship contenders across three entries.
Fourth-placed Frederic Vervisch, who picked up maximum points at last month’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, will share a WRT car with Christopher Mies and fifth-placed Dries Vanthoor.
Stuart Leonard, who is sixth in the standings, will join series debutants Jake Dennis and Sheldon van der Linde in the Belgian outfit’s second entry.
Chinese team Absolute Racing will also field a pair of Audis, with Vervisch’s Spa co-drivers Markus Winkelhock and Christopher Haase listed with Kelvin van der Linde.
The second Absolute car is a privately-run entry for Congfu Cheng, Adderly Fong and Jingzu Sun.
Audi’s Suzuka quintet is completed by Super GT outfit Team Hitotsuyama, which has GT300 regulars Richard Lyons and Ryurichiro Tomito partnering Alessio Picariello.
Head of Audi customer racing Chris Reinke explained that its decision to spread its available IGTC contenders across three cars would maximize its chances in both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships.
Frijns, who has a four-point lead over Mercedes pair Tristan Vautier and Raffaele Marciello, won the Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour with Leonard and Vanthoor before going on to pick up 12 points with Nico Mueller and Rene Rast at Spa.
“This is a new challenge for us,” said Reinke.
“The situation with Robin [Frijns] was clear from the beginning of the season. We distributed our drivers trailing him in the standings to three race cars supported by us in order to make optimum use of our chances.
“At the same time, we want to extend our lead of the standings in the manufacturers’ classification.”
Audi goes into the penultimate IGTC race with a seven-point lead in the manufacturers’ standings over Mercedes, which recently added an additional car to its works-supported lineup.