Audi Sport’s Head of Customer Racing has described the manufacturer’s decision to downscale its Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour Pro involvement to a pair of cars as a “rational approach” toward the rescheduled race.
One of two originally planned Audi Sport Team WRT entries was not registered for the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season finale after the event’s postponement from December to February.
That left Team WRT and Sainteloc Racing with one factory-supported car each for Audi Sport’s push toward the 2021 drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles.
Reinke indicated that the move was not a strategy call for the IGTC decider, although Audi had to make some lineup adjustments to ensure all three of its title-contending drivers remained in the combined squad because some were in the de-registered car.
The No. 37 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo that was not signed up for this weekend’s race is still at Kyalami in its shipping container, ready to be sent back to Europe.
“With the movement of the finale into the next calendar year, we had clashes in various things: activities internally and budget-related,” Reinke told Sportscar365.
“Also we saw that the overall grid lost, from the volume point of view, a bit of momentum. Therefore we just took a rational approach to adjust accordingly.
“So there wasn’t any big strategic momentum behind it. It was just a rational decision to adjust to the event.
“If we had come here in December we would have expected 10 more cars on the grid. I think we took a conservative approach to scale accordingly.
“Once you decide the basic setup and how you want to approach the event, the operational detail gets decided.
“Here we had to take one step back, a new setup for the venue, and therefore a revision of details.
“We ensured that the three front-runners in the championship will be here. That is clear. Then we split the lineups – that was the logic before, and we continue from that.”
Reflecting on a heavily disrupted IGTC season to date, Reinke suggested that the high level of competition in the Pro ranks at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa and the Indianapolis 8 Hour will feed into this weekend’s season finale.
Audi and Ferrari crews are the main ones in contention for the drivers’ title, with two points separating the top drivers from each brand.
“For us, it was a great season even though it was quite short,” said Reinke.
“We were runner-up versus Ferrari in Spa, with a dramatic finale at that race. We had the shorter end on that one, which sent us home a bit heartbroken.
“At Indianapolis, it swung around. It seemed to be that Ferrari had the momentum and they were struck by bad luck.
“So it equaled out and therefore it’s no wonder that we are the ones taking it head-to-head to the finale.”
Audi also leads the manufacturers’ standings and is aiming to secure its fourth IGTC title this weekend.
“The overall manufacturers’ standings probably reflects more on Audi Sport customer racing [than the drivers’ standings],” Reinke suggested.
“We have also seen it reflected into a very successful World Challenge season in Europe.
“This wide customer base, which also supported us to collect points at Spa as well as Indianapolis, is always based on customer racing. Our core business is customer racing.
“Here and there, where we have the ability to enter Pro cars, we will use the opportunity.
“But this customer racing philosophy shows [up] exactly in the manufacturers’ championship and I believe that is what it’s meant to be for.”
While Audi and Ferrari crews are the main ones in contention for the drivers’ title, AKKA-ASP driver Timur Boguslavskiy has a slim chance of snatching the crown away.
The No. 89 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo has been strong all event and will start the race from pole after the results from Pre-Qualifying practice were taken into account.
“The main competition is Ferrari, but I don’t want to count out AMG,” Reinke said.
“They have experience [at Kyalami] as well, so I think on that point it’s nothing that we feel we have a dramatic advantage over them.
“It is a privilege to seem to have an advantage [of experience] going into the race, but it’s all about who has the advantage at the end. We have to stay on our toes to ensure that will be the case.”