Intercontinental GT Challenge points’ leaders Audi Sport have confirmed the five driver crews set to contest this year’s inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours on 24-26 August.
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 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 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.
The Audi Sport customer racing teams in the Suzuka 10 Hours
Audi Sport Team Absolute Racing
Christopher Haase/Kelvin van der Linde/Markus Winkelhock (D/ZA/D)
Audi Sport Team WRT
Christopher Mies/Frédéric Vervisch/Dries Vanthoor (D/B/B)
Audi Sport Team WRT
Jake Dennis/Stuart Leonard/Sheldon van der Linde (GB/GB/ZA)
Audi Team Hitotsuyama
Richard Lyons/Alessio Picariello/Ryuichiro Tomita (GB/B/J)
Congfu Cheng/Adderly Fong/Jingzu Sun (CN/HK/CN)