Audi Sport – the red rhomb's presence in the world of motorsport extends far beyond the Audi factory teams at the DTM or World RX. Many racing weekends end in victory for Audi – and reports on the success from race tracks all over the world then make their way to the Audi Sport headquarters in Neuburg an der Donau. They’re generally addressed to Chris Reinke, Head of Audi Sport customer racing. His mission, in his own words, is “to make our motorsport vehicles accessible to customers too.”
This mission is spearheaded by GT racing, for which the Audi R8 LMS is an ideal choice. The racing car, which is capable of generating up to 430 kW (585 hp) depending on the applicable regulations, is a match for leading global competitors thanks to its superb aerodynamics, high efficiency and strong safety, yet is also relatively affordable with low operating costs. This is possible because its design is very close to the production model: the chassis of the GT3 racing car is made in the same Audi Sport plant in Heilbronn as the Audi R8 road car. At the plant, the Audi R8 LMS is fitted with a ten-cylinder engine that only differs from the production engine in a handful of details. This means that Audi Sport customer racing is able to offer an attractive product at a low upfront price with long inspection cycles for the engine – an enormous advantage in GT racing.
The first-generation Audi R8 LMS was an immediate success, racking up over a thousand wins. The second-generation model is now in action at all the major GT racing series across the world. Over 200 units of the customer racing car have been supplied to date. In Asia, there’s even a dedicated customer racing tournament, the Audi R8 LMS Cup, which in 2016 featured a total of 12 races in China, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan. But Audi Sport customer racing has also helped its customers achieve impressive successes in open competitions too: in 2015, there were overall wins at 24 Hours Nürburgring and Sepang 12 Hours, while the Dutch Audi driver Robin Frijns won the drivers’ title in the fiercely contested Blancpain GT Series.
By contrast, Audi Sport customer racing’s youngest customers only race in Germany and neighbouring countries. Since 2015, 16 talented hopefuls have been selected each year out of well over 100 applicants to compete in 14 races per season in the 228 kW (310 hp) cup version of the Audi TTS Coupétts. Those who achieve success in the face of the strong competition are earmarked for greater things in future. The Audi Sport TT Cup gives young drivers the opportunity to get their careers off to a strong start driving a solid racing car under identical conditions. All the cars are owned by AUDI AG and are centrally managed and serviced. The racers simply have to get in the car and drive. There’s also the added incentive of a highly attractive platform: all the races in the young drivers’ tournament take place alongside DTM races or the 24 Hours Nürburgring.
The latest offering from Audi Sport customer racing is just as attractive, if not more so: from 2017, Audi customers will be able to get their hands on the Audi RS 3 LMS, a racing car based on the Audi RS 3 Saloonrs3, and enter the relatively new two-litre touring car class known as TCR, which is becoming increasingly attractive to privateers. “The regulations are very budget-friendly, because only limited scope for technical development is permitted and the cars are very strongly based on the production models,” Chris Reinke enthusiastically reports. A balance of performance (BoP) rule, similar to that in the GT3 regulations, ensures that the performance of the cars is as evenly matched as possible. If a manufacturer pushes too far ahead with the technology in its car, the BoP pulls it back again. The TCR class is also attractive due to the wide range of possibilities on offer: as well as the TCR International Series, which runs alongside Formula One at selected events, there are 18 national championships worldwide and separate class titles at other races.
Reinke sees even more prospects for customer racing in the future: “There’s still space for another model between the Audi R8 LMS and the Audi RS 3 LMS, and below the Audi RS 3 LMS too. We also want to strategically expand the range of services we offer even further – the necessary staff are already in place and we already supply spare parts at racetracks.” Alongside racing cars with the potential to win, Audi Sport customer racing also offers comprehensive support services to racing customers via global service partners, in-house customer racing consultants and service vehicles at the drivers’ paddocks at major racing series and prestigious stand-alone events. On top of that, there’s also the logistics centre at the Competence Center Motorsport Neuburg: over 11,000 spare parts for the Audi R8 LMS are stocked at the centre alone.