Audi will defend its Intercontinental GT Challenge title, having committed to a return to the globe-trotting championship next year.
The German manufacturer claimed its second consecutive IGTC crown, thanks to wins for the Audi Sport Team Sainteloc and Magnus entries at the Total 24 Hours of Spa and inaugural California 8 Hours at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, respectively.
Markus Winkelhock, who was part of the winning lineup in both races, won the GT3 Drivers’ Championship, marking the German’s first title with Audi.
“We showed a high commitment in this championship and we’ll continue on that level,” Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke told Sportscar365.
Audi’s commitment of supporting local teams in each of the races will continue, with Melbourne Performance Centre set to fly the flag for the manufacturer in the season-opening Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, with support also lent to Team WRT.
The Belgian-based squad is also expected to feature for Spa, while Reinke said it hasn’t yet been decided which team they’ll support for the new Suzuka 10 Hours race, which replaces the Sepang round on next year’s calendar.
“If there was one thing that wasn’t as ideal as all the other races, this has been lived up to,” Reinke said. “Suzuka is an extraordinary replacement for Sepang.
“I have been happy with the schedule for this year already and I’m even more happy for next year.”
The California 8 Hours, meanwhile, will again round out the 2018 schedule, in a revised Oct. 26-28 date.
Audi is the fourth manufacturer to confirm a full-season IGTC campaign, joining Porsche, Mercedes-AMG and Bentley, with additional GT3 brands also expected for the expanded four-round championship.
“Too Early” to Tell on Nominated Drivers
Reinke said it’s “too early” to confirm any season-long drivers for the IGTC season.
Winkelhock and fellow Audi GT3 factory drivers Christopher Haase and Christopher Mies took part in all three rounds this year, locking out the top three positions in the Drivers’ Championship.
The trio will team up in a Jamec Pem Racing entry for Bathurst, in one of two expected all-factory crewed Audis entered by Melbourne Performance Centre for the Feb. 2-4 event.
“We have a lot of cars running in Bathurst so we’ll have a lot of drivers down there at Bathurst,” Reinke said.
“Obviously the second event is Spa and we have everybody available running at Spa. And then we have to see how many customers want to enter for how we support the final two races.”