Connect with us

Intercontinental GT Challenge

MPC Audi Squad in “Good Place” With Evo II Update

Melbourne-based Audi team fully acquainted with Evo II kit after initial freight setbacks…

Photo: Mark Horsburgh

Melbourne Performance Centre is in a “reasonably good place” with its fleet of recently-updated Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo IIs, according to team principal Troy Russell.

MPC is running six Audis in this weekend’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, representing the largest single team effort at the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli round.

The event marks the first Bathurst race appearance of the Evo II package, which Audi Sport introduced to customers around the world this year.

Russell said that freight problems made for a “hectic” early part of the year that included a March race debut and pre-season testing ahead of the 12 Hour in mid-May.

The MPC team has been strong at Mount Panorama so far this weekend, topping each of the four practice sessions held on Friday with its Bronze and professional drivers.

“We’ve done some testing now,” Russell told Sportscar365.

“There were some supply and freight issues. Normally we get stuff from Audi in three to five days but we were waiting three to four weeks.

“It was a little frustrating for a while but we got to the point where we had only three kits. So we were testing three cars, pulling the kit off and putting them on the next three.

“There was a lot of stuff going on in the background to make it happen, but we made it happen. It just meant that we couldn’t test all six cars at once.”

All six of the MPC Audis at Bathurst are now in Evo II specification, as is the Team BRM example that completes a seven-car entry for the manufacturer.

MPC’s intensive testing program with the updated car included visits to The Bend, which is owned by driver Yasser Shahin, as well as Phillip Island and Sydney Motorsport Park.

“I guess our lead-up has been hectic, is the best way to describe it,” said Russell.

“But the boys just knuckled down and got it done. All six cars [at Bathurst] are updated.

“The general consensus with the car is that it’s really good. The Am drivers really like them: it’s what Audi wanted to achieve at the beginning, to ensure they are Am-friendly.

“Out of all the testing we’ve done, all the Ams were rapt. I think that showed this morning when all the Ams drove and were quick, and were all comfortable and happy.

“It’s a good sign when you’ve got six cars and they’re all happy at the beginning. It sets itself up for a good weekend. I think we’re in a reasonably good place with the cars now.”

According to Russell, MPC has three more Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo IIs at its Melbourne workshop, although he suggested that six is the maximum number it can field at Bathurst.

The team has brought around 80 people to the IGTC event, including some staff from its TCR program.

It is also receiving support from three overseas Audi engineers, all of whom worked with MPC when it ran factory-supported entries in previous 12 Hour editions.

Furthermore, Audi has provided factory drivers Kelvin van der Linde, Ricardo Feller, Markus Winkelhock and Nathanael Berthon to support the six-car program.

Russell said that getting official drivers on board was an “open dialogue” between his team and Audi, which is one of only two manufacturers to have provided European assistance at Bathurst on a busy weekend of international GT3 racing.

“It’s a re-occurring thing every year that we always run two factory-type Pro cars,” said Russell.

“The conversation changed when it was announced as a Pro-Am race, but the dialogue has been open. There have been hurdles on that side of the world as well, with [race clashes].

“At the end of the day, we’ve got a good lineup of drivers. It was interesting that Ricardo could go out first session and get P1 at his first Bathurst.

“The guys that normally come are Mies and Haase. We’ve had Rene Rast a couple of times. But what we have, I don’t think there’s much more that you need.”

MPC raced the Evo II for the first time two months ago during the Fanatec GT World Challenge Australia powered by AWS opener at Phillip Island.

It was a challenging event due to poor track conditions, but the team’s private tests in the weeks since then have enabled it to hone its understanding of the update.

“If I’m completely honest, we ran them after motorbikes were down there for three weeks, and we really struggled with the cars,” Russell reflected.

“But it turned out that all of our competitors were struggling. In fact, we probably struggled less because we ended up 1-2-3.

“Although we came from that not completely satisfied, our competitors had the same troubles. From then on, we did lots of testing.

“We are really happy with where we are, with the cars. They’re certainly in the operating window, so we’ll just tune them up from there and see how we go.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

Click to comment

More in Intercontinental GT Challenge