Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke has proclaimed Team WRT’s win in Sunday’s Suzuka 10 Hours as a history-making moment for the manufacturer, which scored its first international victory in Japan.
Kelvin van der Linde, Frederic Vervisch and Dries Vanthoor took their No. 25 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo to a controlling victory in the penultimate round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season, keeping Vervisch’s title hopes alive.
The win was the Audi’s first on Japanese soil, including multiple attempts in LMP1 competition in both the FIA World Endurance Championship and Asian Le Mans Series.
“I came [here] many times with LMP and was never able to achieve a win,” Reinke told Sportscar365. “We came so close, we were leading behind the safety car and then it was red-flagged.
“This morning in the driver’s briefing I said, ‘Guys, we have the possibility of writing history today’ and we did it.”
Reinke said the race wasn’t necessarily as straight forward as it appeared, despite the No. 25 Audi leading from the third hour after Vanthoor managed to get out ahead of the pole-sitting No. 42 Team Schnitzer BMW M6 GT3 following a round of pit stops.
“We had the hope that we would have had a shot at the win,” he said. “At the beginning we struggled with the cars which have an off-sequence speed trace.
“The BMW, the Bentleys and the Honda, which didn’t play a big role in the beginning of the race.
“It was maybe a controlled [race] but the [WRT] car was one of the very few cars that stayed very, very much out of trouble.
“By being in the lead early, we could make use of tactical decisions, which put it further ahead.
“It stayed 100 percent out [of trouble]. Most of the cars had some trouble, some kind of coming together and that really gave us the gap.”
Van der Linde: Tire Management Key to Victory
Van der Linde believes Audi’s strides in better managing tire degradation, as well as an out-of-the-box approach on setup, played a key part in their success 0n Sunday.
“Last year we obviously had concerns about the tire deg, so coming here this year that was one of our main focus points, trying to get the car to last over the long run in comparison to Mercedes and Porsche with their new car,” he told Sportscar365.
“I think we executed that well. We did a setup that I’d say was far out the window of what we’d normally run in typical sprint race, or even at Nürburgring or Spa.
“That seemed to work. That’s credit to our engineer in making the call work on a vey soft platform.
“We [also] had a lineup where we could keep the momentum.
“Sometimes in races you have that momentum not going your way but today it was really flowing. Every driver was doing their bit and that’s the result in the end.”