Team WRT’s appearance in last year’s Indianapolis 8 Hour has given the Audi squad “a very good idea” about how to approach this weekend’s second edition with its expanded factory-supported entry according to team co-manager Elliot Hoffet.
The Belgian outfit is running two factory-driven Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos in the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli round, after working alongside Team Hardpoint for Audi’s only Pro-class effort with a single car at the same race last year.
Audi Sport Team Hardpoint WRT took fourth overall with Mirko Bortolotti, Spencer Pumpelly and Markus Winkelhock sharing the wheel, meaning that WRT is the highest-finishing team from last year to return to Indianapolis.
It is also the only European squad from that event to return for the 2021 race, which has attracted an expanded 41-car entry headlined by 28 vehicles in GT3.
Audi Sport Team Sainteloc, AKKA-ASP, AF Corse and Turner Motorsport are among the high-profile organizations tackling the eight-hour IGTC round for the first time.
Hoffet told Sportscar365 that the learning points from the 2020 edition, both from organizational and strategic standpoints, should “definitely” give WRT an advantage over some of the teams that are new to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“We know the logistics and the organization here, which is completely different compared to Europe,” said Hoffet.
“You have the garages and the pit wall configuration which are completely different to Europe. So at least to be here last year, it gives us a very good idea and a good picture of what is going on here in America.
“It’s always a bit difficult when you arrive, but it has gone much more smoothly compared to if it was the first time for us.
“We also know the tarmac and the grip characteristics of the track. We know how it works with the strategy, the pit lane and pit stops, so we can organize ourselves better because it’s not the first time.
“It’s very helpful to be here for a second time, in terms of everything.
“Strategy and setup as well, because it’s the same [type of] car compared to last year. So we know more or less where to start. It’s always helpful.”
Audi Sport has put together a three-car entry for Indianapolis, with two cars run by WRT and one by North American debutant Sainteloc Racing.
These were Audi’s highest-finishing teams at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, where Audi took an early lead in the IGTC manufacturers’ standings.
Sainteloc’s crew is retained from Spa, while the WRT cars each feature one change with the addition of a driver who represented Audi Sport Team Attempto in Belgium.
According to Hoffet, the two teams which normally race against each other in Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup are pooling their resources for Indianapolis. They are sharing the same pit garage space and working together on data.
“We try to work together because it’s not like in Spa: it’s a different country with different organization,” Hoffet explained.
“So it makes life easier if we try to help each other. We really work all together.
“Of course we have the two WRT cars with our mechanics and engineers. They have their own on Sainteloc, but we have a mission control room upstairs where we have some Sainteloc engineers, WRT engineers and Audi engineers working as one group.
“All information is shared: data, setup, everything. It’s an Audi entry, so we work all together.”
Hoffet noted that Audi’s ‘mission control’ room above the pit boxes was not present last year due to stricter measures put in place to manage the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s never the same when you work remotely than when you are here,” he said.
“When you are remote, you don’t always see exactly what has happened. You ask things like, ‘why do we change the tires now? Why do we do that?’
“Here we see exactly what is happening so you understand directly what is going on, and it makes life easier.
“Communication is much easier and we work faster. It’s not only about us, but normally we should be in a good position.”
Different Layout Likely to Suit Audis
Hoffet added that the data gathered during last year’s Indy 8H is “still very helpful” for WRT despite the infield track layout being tweaked for the second eight-hour edition.
Rather than following a fast left-entry chicane leading onto the back straight, cars this year will take a right at Turn 5 and follow the long 180-degree left-hander formerly used by Formula 1.
WRT started the weekend strongly with No. 32 driver Dries Vanthoor setting the first leading lap time of the weekend during a paid test session on Thursday.
“It’s a bit slower, so it has changed a little bit,” said Hoffet.
“I think it’s more beneficial for us with the Audi, because straight-line speed is not our biggest advantage. So it’s killed the fast part a little bit. It’s helpful, but I don’t think it changes much setup-wise.
“I would say this is a low-grip circuit, but with high tire degradation. It’s a bit challenging.
“But we also have those kinds of circuits in Europe, so we know how to adapt and how to set up the car for that.”