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After launching the R8 LMS race car in Europe last year, Audi has now announced its intentions to bring the track-only version of the R8 to North America. In an interview with the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), Audi Sport boss Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, said he’d like to have the car run in something like the ALMS’s GT Challenge class in 2011.
The GT Challenge class is the entry-level class, which is part of a new set of classes the series has created to stay competitive confuse people.
“From 2011 on, we want to the cars available to customers in the United States,” he said, commenting that obviously Audi would need to support the teams and not just sell the cars.
With Audi’s huge involvement in the ALMS over the past several years with its TDI diesel R8, R10 and now R15 cars, the German automaker has done a lot to raise the series’ profile. Dr. Ulrich hinted that it would be nice if the GT class could accommodate Audi, which has done so much for the sport. With Audi not as involved in the ALMS any more, however, he even commented that Audi would like to continue to support the series, something the introduction of a fleet of R8 race cars most certainly would do.
Audi has its sights set of the Nürburgring 24 Hour race and it intends to not only take home the top spot but perhaps the entire podium as it has announced plans to campaign a fleet of R8 LMS GT3 cars.
Teams ABT Sportsline and Phoenix Racing will bring two cars apiece with factory support from Audi. The 500hp cars are built for racing and Audi has stacked the deck with a long list of some of the greatest drivers in motorsports.
The No. 100 ABT Sportsline car will be piloted by reigning DTM Champion Timo Scheider, along with his DTM teammate Mattias Ekström and three-time Le Mans winner Marco Werner. The second ABT Sportsline car, No. 97, will be driven by Christian Abt, Jean-François Hemroulle, Pierre Kaffer and Lucas Luhr.
As for the two Phoenix Racing cars, the No. 98 R8 will be driven by Frank Stippler, Mike Rockenfeller and Marc Basseng, a man who has help the Nürburgring fastest lap record several times.
The No. 99 Phoenix Racing R8 will be piloted by Frank Biela, Marcel Fässler, Emanuele Pirro (an Audi Sport R8 and R10 TDI driver) and none other than Hans-Joachim Stuck, a man who has won the Nürburgring 24 Hour race three times.
“The 24 Hours is not only one of the biggest motorsport events in Germany,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “The Nürburgring-Nordschleife is considered one of the world’s toughest and most demanding race tracks. Similar to Sebring for the sports prototypes, it is superbly suited for revealing the final improvement potential of any new race car. This is exactly what we’re planning to do at the 24-hour race before delivering the R8 LMS to customers, starting this fall.”
The 37th running of the Nürburgring 24 Hour race will begin May 23rd and conclude May 24th.
Normally the Nürburgring 24 Hour race is a Porsche dominated affair, but we have a feeling this year might be a little different.
Official release after the jump: