Audi doesn’t have enough factory drivers to split between its Intercontinental GT Challenge and ADAC GT Masters programs should the two clashes between the series not be resolved, according to Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke.
Audi, as well as fellow German brand Mercedes-AMG, have been the two most vocal manufacturers on the pending clashes between the two GT3 championships this year that will stretch both customer programs to its limits on the driver front.
As reported by Sportscar365 late last year, the Suzuka 10 Hours and Indianapolis 8 Hours currently fall on the same weekend as GT Masters rounds at Zandvoort and the Sachsenring.
While there were initial conversations from the sanctioning bodies to resolve the clashes, with a proposal made for ADAC to move the Zandvoort round and SRO to put the Indianapolis race on another weekend, it now appears unlikely, at least on the SRO’s side.
According to Reinke, it has left Audi with an undetermined number of factory-supported cars for IGTC after the second round of the season at Spa.
Suzuka and Indianapolis serve as the third and fourth races of the global GT3 series.
“At the moment we’ve only committed that we will enter the Intercontinental GT Challenge,” Reinke told Sportscar365. “We kicked off the season [at Bathurst] with three cars.
“Obviously the next race is Spa, where we historically have had a multi-car effort.
“As our dialogue has started, we’ll have to solve the clashes with the ADAC GT Masters. We wouldn’t have enough drivers to have that many cars running after that.”
Audi had eight factory drivers present at last weekend’s season-opening Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, all of whom took part in the German-based GT3 championship last year.
Reinke said the additions to its factory roster, including Mirko Bortolotti and Matteo Drudi, are unrelated to the pending clashes and strictly related to increased customer programs.
“I would like to have a clear strategy for the season. I cannot because I still have the hope that we get [the clashes] sorted,” Reinke added.
Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Stefan Wendl, meanwhile, has so far been only able to commit two full-season factory-backed entries for the same reason.
Wendl described the clashes with GT Masters as a “big headache” for the manufacturer.
“It leaves us in a very difficult position in front of our customers because on one hand, it’s factory-supported racing in the IGTC, but on the other had, it’s a big investment for our customers to be competitive in GT Masters,” he told Sportscar365.
“We are really glad that we have customers that use factory drivers and set up a program in GT Masters to run for a championship. This is something we respect very highly.
“On the other hand IGTC is factory supported but also something we do together with our customers approaching single-event success.
“We hope there’s still a chance to find a solution to avoid those clashes.”
Porsche, which also has customers represented in both series, is unaffected by the clashes according to its director of factory motorsports Pascal Zurlinden, who said they prepared for it in advance.
The defending IGTC champions have significantly more factory talent than their German counterparts, with 20-plus factory, Young Professional or Juniors in its arsenal for 2020.
“If you look at GT Masters, there’s clashes with ELMS, WEC and many [other series], so when we had requests from teams for drivers, it was a difficult one,” Zurlinden told Sportscar365.
“We have quite a huge pool of drivers and we manage around it. We’ve built everything around these clashes so it’s not really a problem.”
Ratel: No Option to Move Indianapolis
SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel said they haven’t been able to move the Indianapolis date due to the lack of available alternative weekends.
A change to the U.S. leg of the IGTC would also affect full-season SRO America competitors, which have points-paying rounds of Pirelli GT4 America and TC America already confirmed for the Oct. 2-4 weekend.
“The weekend after [Indianapolis] is Petit [Le Mans],” Ratel told Sportscar365. “The weekend before is Budapest [GTWC Europe Sprint Cup].
“We have managed to create this 26-race calendar with no clashes and it’s very, very interlinked. If you move something, it’s a domino effect and very complicated.”
Ratel said the only potential change to the IGTC calendar could be the season finale at Kyalami, which may be moved back by one week should the FIA GT World Cup be reconfirmed for Macau, which is currently on the same weekend.