> Team WRT and four previous winning drivers further bolster two-car effort
Reigning California 8 Hours winners Audi Sport Team Land return to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on March 28-30 as part of the German marque’s two-car Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli entry.
Following a troubled first outing of 2019 at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour in February, the two-time Manufacturers’ champions are eager to get their title defence back on track at a venue where the R8 LMS GT3 claimed a back-to-back hat-trick of wins, pole positions and fastest laps in 2017 and ’18.
The model’s new Evo specification also makes its #IntGTC debut in California where Team Land’s trio of Kelvin van der Linde, Markus Winkelhock and Christopher Mies are joined by Audi Sport Team WRT’s Christopher Haase, Frédéric Vervisch and Dries Vanthoor – the only one of the six not to compete in Australia.
Both cars’ line-ups are awash with previous California 8 Hours winners. Van der Linde remains unbeaten around WeatherTech Raceway where he triumphed with Haase and Mies in October when the event concluded last season’s campaign. He and Winkelhock also claimed victory 12 months earlier to help seal Audi’s first #IntGTC Manufacturers’ crown.
That perfect record will come as a welcome boost next weekend when Audi attempts to make up some of the ground lost at Bathurst where its two lead entries scored a total of just three points. It leaves them 30 behind current leaders Mercedes-AMG, which has nominated the maximum number of entries – four – to score points at Laguna Seca.
“It’s a challenge we’re happy to take on as the title defenders in the manufacturers’ classification, but we’ve also seen how difficult it is this year,” acknowledged Head of Audi Sport customer racing, Chris Reinke.
Audi’s pedigree around Laguna Seca extends to the former American Le Mans Series where its Audi R8 and Audi R10 TDI sports prototypes scored a total of eight victories between 2000 and 2008.
It is one of eight full-season manufacturers set to compete at this year’s California 8 Hours where Honda make their #IntGTC debut. Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes-AMG, Nissan and Bathurst winners Porsche also line up for round two of the world’s only global GT3 championship.
The event begins with paid practice next Wednesday before the first official track action takes place on Thursday 28 March. Qualifying and the race itself follow over the subsequent two days.