Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke says its early commitment to the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge season will allow for “more efficient” planning of its title defense.
The German manufacturer announced last week that it will return to IGTC next year, supporting at least two Audi R8 LMS cars in each race of the newly expanded five-round series.
Audi has been undefeated in the manufacturers’ championship since the Cup’s launch in 2016.
“That we were able to announce a decision early means that it was made earlier than before,” Reinke told Sportscar365. “It gives us the possibility to plan early on the logistics side.
“Last year we did it, more or less, on a race-to-race basis and it was really managed on a race-to-race basis. We hope we can run it more efficient from an organization point of view.”
Reinke said he expects to utilize a similar team strategy for 2019, which saw six Audi customer teams receive factory backing over the course of the season, the majority of them being local entrants.
While Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour winners WRT took part in all four rounds, Reinke downplayed the prospects of any all-pro Audi team contesting the entire IGTC season next year.
“At the moment where we are with the planning for next year, I wouldn’t rule out anything but I think it’s unlikely that one team runs the complete series,” he said.
In addition to Audi, Mercedes-AMG, Porsche and Bentley are all expected to return as registered manufacturers, with both Honda and Lamborghini understood to be nearing a decision for potential involvement in 2019.
Audi to Retrofit 2019-Spec Cars for Bathurst
With event rules prohibiting newly homologated GT3 cars or Evo kits, Reinke said they plan to retrofit its 2019-specification Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos for the season-opener in Bathurst.
It’s understood several Australian customers have opted to purchase all-new cars instead of Evo kits, meaning brand-new cars would be converted to the previous specification for the race, before going back to 2019 form.
“We have the advantage that our Evo kit makes a difference in the car but isn’t that much of a big thing,” Reinke said. “So what we will actually see next year in Bathurst will be new cars on an old spec.
“We’ll actually convert cars back. We can do it because we’re a customer-friendly setup.
“We’ll do it the other way around, so it’s possible for us.”
Reinke: Encouraging Growth for IGTC
Despite losing out to Mercedes-AMG in the race, Reinke feels the inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours to have been the biggest turnaround in the IGTC calendar year-to-year.
The Japanese event, co-promoted by GTA and Mobilityland, replaced the Sepang 12 Hours as the Asian leg this year.
“For me the phenomenal race was for sure Suzuka,” Reinke said.
“The first time being in Suzuka and what kind of big percentage we could take from Super GT fans into GT fans. That was a very positive thing.
“If you looked at Malaysia, there were 60 spectators and in Suzuka, straight away, there were 60,000.”
Reinke also saw growth in the California 8 Hours but admitted work still needs to be done to help build the event’s fan base.
“I hope that we increase the attendance at the track,” he said. “But we did our best with good racing action.
“It was a bigger grid than the year before. What needs to be done to improve the venue has been done. I’m positive about it.”