Audi will focus on winning Saturday’s Kyalami 9 Hours as a priority over its chance at the drivers’ title battle, according to its head of customer racing Chris Reinke.
For the first time in the four-year history of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli, Audi isn’t in the manufacturers’ title battle heading into the season finale, meaning it can’t maintain its unbroken streak of manufacturers’ championships since 2016.
While Frederic Vervisch is only six points behind points leader Maxi Buhk, Reinke admitted that the brand’s main focus is on taking victory in the return of international racing to the legendary South African circuit.
“It’s a new experience!” Reinke joked, when asked about not being in the manufacturer’s title battle.
“You fight for all you can do but it is the first race in Kyalami. We want to win the comeback race in Kyalami so we will, for sure, focus on the race.
“We have with Kelvin van der Linde a local ambassador in our lineup and we have a runner-up in the championship with Frederic Vervisch.
“There are a lot of targets to be reached, [apart from] the manufacturers’ title.”
Audi has two factory-backed lineups racing this weekend, with a WRT car for van der Linde, Vervisch and Dries Vanthoor, as well as a Land Motorsport entry for Christopher Haase, Christopher Mies and Markus Winkelhock.
Both cars are carrying special South African-themed ‘zebra’ liveries.
The WRT lineup is the same trio that won the Suzuka 10 Hours in August but difficult results at Bathurst and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca have ruled Audi out of the championship hunt, which will go down to Mercedes-AMG or Porsche.
Saturday’s race has a number of unknowns for the entire field which has very little experience on the new track; something that Reinke is excited for.
“For sure, [there will be] a couple of challenges but it’s a good one. I think that causes excitement,” he said.
“To do something new is an adventure and something with a classic name that has an aura to it. We are all happy to go here and it’s true we talk Intercontinental Challenge and it’s a true fifth continent that we have now.
“Marrakesh is Africa as well, I’m aware, but it’s about that much Africa. Now we go, so I like that.
“Therefore, yes, it’s excitement and only one can be the first winner in the comeback of international racing in Kyalami.
“We will do everything to be that. A tiny bit of a history will be written there and we want to be part of it.”