Intercontinental GT Challenge points’ leaders Audi Sport have confirmed the five driver crews set to contest this year’s inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours on August 24-26.
The German manufacturer’s R8 LMS GT3s are entered by three teams representing the breadth of its global customer base. Super GT outfit Audi Team Hitotsuyama is no stranger to Suzuka, while the factory-backed Team WRT and Absolute Racing squads – based in Belgium and China, respectively – can also call on their recent Blancpain GT Series Asia experience at the Formula 1 venue.
With Drivers’ championship leader Robin Frijns unavailable due to DTM commitments, Audi has opted to spread five of its other main contenders across three cars.
Christopher Mies, Dries Vanthoor and Frederic Vervisch – who scored the full 25 points at the Total 24 Hours of Spa last month – share one of Audi Sport Team WRT’s two factory-backed entries, while Vervisch’s Spa co-drivers Christopher Haase and reigning Intercontinental GT Challenge champion Markus Winkelhock partner Kelvin van der Linde at Audi Sport Team Absolute Racing.
Alongside Vervisch, Vanthoor, Haase and Winkelhock in fourth overall is Stuart Leonard, who joins Jake Dennis and Sheldon van der Linde aboard Team WRT’s second R8 at Suzuka.
Elsewhere, Alessio Picariello has joined Audi Team Hitotsuyama’s regular Super GT drivers Richard Lyons and Ryuichiro Tomita. A fifth R8, entered privately by Absolute Racing, sees amateur driver Jingzu Sun partner Adderly Fong and Congfu Cheng, who was a Blancpain GT Series Asia race winner with Absolute at Suzuka earlier this year.
Audi is also aiming to defend its advantage in the Manufacturers’ championship, which currently stands at seven points over Mercedes-AMG.
“This is a new challenge for us,” confirmed Head of Audi Sport customer racing, Chris Reinke. “The situation with Robin [Frijns] was clear from the beginning of the season. We distributed our drivers trailing him in the standings to three race cars supported by us in order to make optimum use of our chances. At the same time, we want to extend our lead of the standings in the manufacturers’ classification.”
Audi is one of 13 manufacturers confirmed for the inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours, which replaces the 1000km distance previously used for the circuit’s annual Summer Endurance Race.
ABOUT THE SUZUKA 10 HOURS
The Suzuka 10 Hours is being jointly administered by SRO Motorsports Group, Super GT organisers GT Association, and Suzuka’s management company Mobilityland Corporation.
Uniquely, the race offers FIA GT3 cars from all over the world an opportunity to compete equally against Japanese teams running similar machinery and the JAF GT-spec chassis only found in Super GT’s GT300 category.
August’s 47th Summer Endurance Race builds on the legacy of Suzuka’s previous 1000-kilometre event. Although best known previously as Super GT’s blue riband round, the race has also featured on the FIA GT Championship, BPR Series, World Sportscar Championship and All-Japan Sports Prototype Championship schedules since its establishment in 1966.
Pirelli has been chosen as the event’s official tyre supplier while prize money totalling 100-million Yen has also been confirmed.