Is Audi's long-term future in customer racing now secure?

Audi’s potential exit from customer racing appears to have been averted and several signs now point towards the German marque continuing its presence in GT cars for the foreseeable future.

Is Audi's long-term future in customer racing now secure?

There had been plenty of speculation regarding Audi Sport in 2022, with many citing the impending end of the R8 supercar’s production as an indication that its customer division would be wound up in the coming years.

The rumours came against the backdrop of other changes in Audi’s motorsport portfolio, with the under-development LMDh project being axed and a new programme in Formula 1 beginning 2026 being announced alongside its existing factory commitments in the Dakar Rally.

However, there appears to be increasing optimism within the Audi stable that it will remain in GT racing, fuelled by the appointment of Rolf Michl as the head of Audi Sport on 1 September.

Michl has previous experience within the same department and as well as at Abt Sportsline, and is considered by many to be more fit for a motorsport role than his predecessor Julius Seedbach, who has since switched to Audi’s technical department.

In an interview with Autosport’s sister website Motorsport-Total.com, Attempto team boss Arkin Aka said: “Audi has now created facts. The key message at the [Hockenheim DTM] meeting was that Audi is committed to customer sport. That's why everything is clear for us now."

It is understood that Audi’s long-time customer racing head Chris Reinke came under pressure during Seedbach’s leadership, but has regained full control over the division following his departure.

Reinke is highly regarded by teams and carries plenty of experience, having previously headed its highly-successful LMP1 programme under the stewardship of then-motorsport chief Wolfgang Ullrich. 

Successor to the Audi R8

Audi recently unveiled the final V10-powered version of its R8 supercar as it begins to switch focus to electrifying its fleet.

The R8 has formed the basis of its GT3 contender since 2009 and the marque recently gave the car a facelift in 2022, with the updated version going by the name of Audi R8 GT3 Evo II.

While there is still some uncertainty about how Audi will deal with the situation, the German manufacturer insists it has several options on the table beyond 2024, with or without the R8.

“We have to define a clear perspective [on] the car we want to compete with,” Reinke told Autosport.

“For the moment we are very fortunate and have been for 15 years that we have the R8 as a base, our iconic sportscar out of the Audi Sport production line. 

“We would obviously be very fortunate if the successor of whatever kind would carry similar DNA to enable us to build a super strong race car. On the other hand, there are various possibilities to tackle this situation if in the future there might be no R8 anymore.”

Chris Reinke, Head of Audi Sport Customer Racing

Chris Reinke, Head of Audi Sport Customer Racing

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

In theory, Audi could extend the homologation of the R8 beyond 2024, but it is unlikely that a manufacturer of that scale would like to compete with an out-of-production car.

“I can homologate a GT car eight years after the end of production,” explained Reinke. “The end of production is not finally communicated and decided yet, but for sure it won't be this or next year. So, in theory, we could race a car until the beginning of the 2030s. 

“I know that there is a lot of talk about it, but yes, we always want to be close to an authentic product, we always want it to be the authentic top level of a current product. 

“Therefore, we will look at what the production line-up is going to bring, and what we can adopt. But the lifeline of the R8 LMS version for us in racing categories is almost infinite.”

Audi doesn’t need to necessarily build its next GT3 car around a thoroughbred racer and can instead opt for a sedan as a base model, similar to rival manufacturer BMW’s M4 GT3.

However, if Audi decides to take this route and develop an all-new GT3 contender, it could take until 2026 until the car is ready for sale to customers.

Reinke insists that Audi doesn’t have to make a quick decision regarding the long-term future of Audi’s GT programme. But equally, he feels Audi has a responsibility towards its customers in providing some clarity over what direction the marque will take in the coming years.

“At the moment we feel there is a lot of discussion about Audi's customer racing future in the public,” he said.

“We launched two very strong models with the Evo II on the GT3 side and the Gen2 on the TCR side, which are selling overwhelmingly well and performing overwhelmingly well.

“Therefore, it's not as high on our priority list as it might be from the outside.

“On the other hand, customer racing means catering the customers and if the customers ask for answers beyond 2025 it is on us to deliver, so we will try our very best to do that as soon as possible.” 

#22 Audi Sport Team Car Collection Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo 2: Christopher Haase, Nico Müller, Patric Niederhauser, René Rast

#22 Audi Sport Team Car Collection Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo 2: Christopher Haase, Nico Müller, Patric Niederhauser, René Rast

Photo by: Andreas Beil

shares
comments
Muller will look back at Audi stint with "golden memories"
Previous article

Muller will look back at Audi stint with "golden memories"

Next article

Porsche squads Manthey and Toksport WRT interested in DTM entry

Porsche squads Manthey and Toksport WRT interested in DTM entry
The longest-serving Red Bull driver revealing F1’s true brutality Plus

The longest-serving Red Bull driver revealing F1’s true brutality

His day of days in Formula 1 came at Indianapolis in 2005, a day grand prix racing strives to forget. But Patrick Friesacher, the long-serving Red Bull lieutenant, remains active today driving a two-seater that provides ordinary people with a glimpse of an F1 car’s savage potential, including this writer...

Formula 1
Jun 2, 2022
How the DTM has come back stronger from its Norisring nadir Plus

How the DTM has come back stronger from its Norisring nadir

OPINION: Questionable driving standards and farcical team orders meant the DTM's first season under GT3 regulations ended under a cloud. But the organisation has responded firmly by banning team orders and welcomed new manufacturers, making for an intriguing season ahead as new and returning names prepare for battle

DTM
Mar 30, 2022
The remarkable career of a 'classy' champion who rejected politics Plus

The remarkable career of a 'classy' champion who rejected politics

Over two decades as a factory driver with Audi and BMW, Martin Tomczyk earned the respect of team-mates and rivals as a hard but fair racer. After calling time on his racing career, the 2011 DTM champion sat down with Autosport to look back

GT
Mar 5, 2022
The other Hamilton conqueror seeking career revival Plus

The other Hamilton conqueror seeking career revival

On his rise through the ranks before reaching Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton was usually a cut above the rest. But he never truly asserted himself over a Mercedes-backed fellow Briton who traded single-seaters for touring cars and is now seeking new opportunities after a year largely spent on the sidelines

DTM
Dec 18, 2021
How the DTM's shambolic finale poses awkward future questions Plus

How the DTM's shambolic finale poses awkward future questions

OPINION: The scenes at the Norisring as Mercedes used blatant team orders to secure the first DTM title of the new GT3 era totally undermined the credibility of the championship. But as well as overshadowing the season, it also presents uncomfortable questions to series bosses about the direction it is headed in

DTM
Oct 12, 2021
How Audi's new DTM star is channeling Rast to achieve his "childhood dream" Plus

How Audi's new DTM star is channeling Rast to achieve his "childhood dream"

Having learned the ropes in GT3 alongside Rene Rast, Kelvin van der Linde is in line to take up the three-time champion's baton as Audi's new DTM king. From humble origins in South Africa, it's been a remarkable journey so far for the current series leader, but he knows that the 2021 title is a long way from settled just yet

DTM
Sep 18, 2021
The number-crunching behind the new-look DTM's equalisation drive Plus

The number-crunching behind the new-look DTM's equalisation drive

Switching to GT3 regulations marked a fresh start for the DTM in 2021, but it has also drawn a line in the sand against other series using similar cars by engaging AVL Racing to develop a bespoke Balance of Performance system. Here’s how it works

DTM
Jul 23, 2021
The initial verdict on DTM's move to GT3 cars Plus

The initial verdict on DTM's move to GT3 cars

OPINION: Facing collapse last year, the DTM has shifted its philosophy from a championship for silhouette-based touring cars to GT machines not too dissimilar to those racing across multiple series worldwide. But despite some initial BoP-based teething troubles, there were some pleasant findings as the 'new DTM' got underway at Monza

DTM
Jun 22, 2021