Audi Sport has reaffirmed its commitment to this year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli but will make team and driver selections “as late as possible” due to the rapidly changing pandemic conditions, according to its customer racing boss Chris Reinke.
The German manufacturer, which currently leads the title race following last weekend’s season-opening TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, plans to be represented on the grid at both the Indianapolis 8 Hour and Kyalami 9 Hour with its so-called “strategic” entries that are still in the process of being determined.
“We have always been very committed to the Intercontinental GT Challenge format as well as to the annual calendars,” Reinke told Sportscar365.
“Unless unforeseeable things will stop us, we will for sure participate in the U.S. as well as South Africa.”
Reinke said a final decision will be taken on short notice largely because of the evolving situation with travel restrictions that could impact its customer teams.
Longtime Audi partner Team WRT joined forces with U.S.-based Team Hardpoint for last year’s race at the Brickyard to help ease the travel hurdles during the pandemic.
Audi’s effort was increased at Kyalami with factory-supported efforts from both WRT and Car Collection Motorsport.
It’s understood Audi is aiming to have at least two GT3 Pro entries at each event this year.
IGTC rules allow each manufacturer to nominate up to four cars, with the top two scoring points.
“A final decision [on factory-supported teams] hasn’t been taken because it’s sometimes affected by customer approaches and resources into the customer base,” said Reinke.
“Internally, I think we have a good direction.
“For us, the European market is very, very healthy at the moment. We see great grids and therefore obviously have good resources to enable [ventures] like [at the 24H Spa].
“It’s more tricky to act in Intercontinental through the pandemic and therefore it is less foreseeable how big those grids in general are.
“We’re clearly committing to these venues from the Audi Sport side; we’ll be there. But with how many cars, and maybe customers joining us, joint ventures, it’s to be seen.”
Reinke added: “I expect those decisions to be taken with shorter notice than before because we are seeing our customers deciding with shorter notice.
“They all push it to the last moment due to this coronavirus. ‘Can I travel? Will I be quarantined when I get back?’
“We’ve had lengthy discussions about the Macau situation with Stephane [Ratel] and how to act with it and respect our common goal and on the other side refuse the risk of early commitments and quarantine sanctions and costs.
“This is the challenge we’re all facing. Therefore I believe we’ll make as late as possible commitments.
“It doesn’t change our intention. We’ll be there. But how, we have to see what corona allows us with our customers.”
Mercedes-AMG Set for Full Season Comeback
Head of Mercedes-AMG customer racing Stefan Wendl said it’s their intent to also complete the season after not being represented on the grid at Indianapolis and Kyalami last year with ‘Performance’ teams due to the pandemic.
“As usual we’re a big supporter of IGTC,” Wendl told Sportscar365. “It was unfortunate towards the end of last year that we couldn’t participate in the last two rounds.
“For us this year it’s clearly the plan to bring a few cars into those races and fight for the full championship again.”
It’s known that HubAuto Racing is planning to contest the full IGTC season while SunEnergy1 Racing is planning a comeback for the final two rounds with a Pro-Am crewed Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo according to team principal Kenny Habul.
The joint Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS round at Indy will also see three Pro-Am class entries from DXDT Racing and a potential Pro class effort from Winward Racing.
“We’re relying on our customer base and it’s good to always have two or even three cars and we also have gentlemen cars, Pro-Am cars, Am cars, whatever,” Wendl said.
“This is good for the pure number of cars on the grid and for everything else.
“I hope and expect a mix of Pro and Pro-Am cars and potentially also Silver cars.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report