The latest Intercontinental GT Challenge round presented DSC the opportunity to speak with Chris Reinke, the head of customer racing at Audi Sport to get his thoughts on the series, and the direction of the customer market. It’s a market in which Audi has played a big part in developing recent years, especially since its LMP1 exit at the end of 2016.
Audi recently took the wraps off the Evo kit for its flagship R8 GT3, and is continuing the global sale of its Audi R8 GT4 (which debuted in 2018) and their TCR product, the Audi RS 3 LMS.
And Audi has customers racing in all the key series. The latest Michelin Pilot Challenge round from Sebring for instance saw 43 total entries. Out of those 43 cars, roughly 20% of them were Audis, most of them in TCR where Audi had nearly half of the 15-car list.
Let’s dive straight in and talk about the IGTC Chris. In the current market, a series like this with a lot of manufacturer support, manufacturer drivers, how important is it for Audi to be successful?
“IGTC is a possibility to showcase the potential of the product, on the base of support of the manufacturer, and to show the potential and to motivate customers around the world to invest into that product.
“For us, the base is customer racing and we use the international platform that runs on five continents to prove the potential and therefore, it is very important.”
Do you see programmes based on customers and sales becoming more prevalent than purely factory based efforts now?
“I would like to see that on a broader picture. I think it’s a mega trend in general in society that through the higher level of digital input into our daily life we are also more desperate for authentic experiences and customer racing does exactly that.
factory racing is to prove the technology and the competence, and that is important
“Maybe years ago it was a privilege to have access to Formula 1 grandstand tickets and this was the excitement of the weekend. These days I believe you want to be yourself in the car and that is exactly what we promote.
“So I think it is a general mega trend in society but that doesn’t take away anything from factory racing. I think factory racing is to prove the technology and competence, and that is important. But it is a completely different field than actually handing the experience over.”
How many GT3 and GT4 Cars are you selling right now and how does that compare to previous years?
We have at the moment more than 350 GT cars in the market
“We have at the moment more than 350 GT cars in the market, obviously when a model is new and upgraded we have peaks but in general we see the worldwide scene growing and therefore we are happy. We also now have the ability with the addition of the GT4 and with the new Evo kit on the GT3 to, again and again, fuel the market.”
With a series like this, where you’re going to Bathurst, you’re going to Spa, you’re going to Japan, that is a lot of customers you are reaching out to, right?
“It’s a privilege to have the possibility on each continent to showcase the potential of the product. And at the same time count them all together and run as a collective points system to battle it out between the customer racing manufacturers. It’s a great format and therefore we are happy to keep supporting it.”
The past two seasons of the IGTC have been won by Audi, but this season the series now has a record-high number of manufacturers at eight. This includes Audi’s rival brands in Germany, Mercedes-AMG, BMW, and Porsche, who are also fighting to showcase the GT3 product they have for sale across the markets.
After the first two rounds of the season, Audi is currently fifth in the standings, 38 points off Mercedes-AMG, which leads the title fight.