The future extent of Audi’s support for GT teams in North America is “to be seen” according to the automaker’s head of customer racing as part of a “restructure” of the business.
According to Chris Reinke, who oversees Audi Sport’s global customer racing efforts, the German company is providing greatly reduced support for customer outfits in North America due to a “strategic” refocus in the region and a lack of sales volume.
No Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo was on the grid at last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, where a total of 10 manufacturers were represented in the GT3-based ranks.
Additionally, no Audi team has plans to compete in any more IMSA races this year, while its presence in the AWS-powered Fanatec GT World Challenge America is also uncertain.
Carbahn along with Peregrine Racing and NTE Sport fielded the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos in the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, but both teams are now with Lamborghini.
The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge grid lacks Audi GT4s, but some RS 3 LMS examples race in the TCR class.
“I think with the US market, we’re trying as an operation to assess new possibilities and how to act in the market,” Reinke told Sportscar365.
” It’s to do. At the moment, it remains to be seen how our new strategy is taken up and how to approach the customer side of the race in the United States.
“There has been a strategic focus on future, more e-tron based, business areas by the mothership.
“This led to the situation where we had to restructure our part of the customer race operation in the United States
“It’s not a question of budget. I think it’s more a question of intention. It’s less focus, passion, support. But it’s not always about the money.
The exact details of the restructuring are unclear, but Reinke said the “direct support” to the teams is “not at the level we used to”.
Teams using GT3, GT4 and GT2 cars must have access to mechanical parts throughout each racing season, as well as technical assistance when needed.
“It’s set for this year, and now we have to look at how the market will react to it,” Reinke said.
“On our side, a decision is clear and customers are informed of the new configuration.
“The first result is that there was no GT3 car at Daytona. But I think it’s too early to judge.
“If it was the main event with limited support, it’s not that appealing. But throughout the year you can see that it will continue. The evaluation will take place after more than one race .
Another reason for Audi’s declining GT racing support in North America, Reinke says, is the lack of traction in the market over the past two years.
“In Europe, we attract customers by a certain level of support and it gets picked up,” he said.
“It’s become a growing business case for us. I believe in the United States we have supported a lot in the past, but the market has not recovered to the volume that it would warrant at this time.
“So if we don’t scale back a little bit what has been reflected by the market… let’s see what the reaction will be.
“The race for customers lives on the business cases in each region. This is the only way that customer shopping can take place in a sustainable way. Therefore, we had to try a different model in the United States”
Reinke hopes Audi Sport can resurrect its presence in the North American market later on and be more healthily represented on grids in the future.
Audi has won three class victories in the four major IMSA endurance races, having won the Rolex 24 with Magnus Racing in 2016 and Motul Petit Le Mans with Paul Miller Racing in 2014 followed by Land-Motorsport in 2017.
He also won the Indianapolis 8 Hours last year with Audi Sport Team Sainteloc, en route to a fourth Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by the Pirelli constructors’ title.
The company now has the opportunity to spark renewed interest in the GT3 with the rollout of its updated, customer-focused R8 LMS Evo II model. Last week marked the start of deliveries of the Evo II to teams ahead of the European, Asian and Australian seasons.
“My ambition has always been and always will be to grow customer races around the world,” Reinke said.
“During Audi’s decades of success in American motorsport, [reducing support] was not an exciting step for us to take. Of course, we will develop models on how to emerge strong from the current situation.
“At the moment it is what it is, and we will see how the market reflects and how it develops.
“That’s for sure a counter situation that we have in the United States, because elsewhere in the world we are growing. Even so, we believe that we have, sporting substance, a persuasive product.
“For me, we tick a lot of the boxes that make customer shopping desirable anywhere else in the world. I still believe, why wouldn’t it work in the United States?”