DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With its win in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge last Friday at Sebring Int’l Raceway, Audi’s plan of action for motorsports and business in North America is continuing to find success on and off the track.
The No. 39 Carbahn Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT4 of Tyler McQuarrie and Jeff Westphal recorded an impressive five top-five finishes in 2018 as the only full-time Audi R8 LMS GT4 in the Pilot Challenge Grand Sport class. Yet its first win eluded the team until at Sebring.
It was a dominating performance en route to victory, topping seven other manufacturers plus three additional Audi R8 GT4s new to the series this year, a second car for Carbahn and two from eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing.
“We’ve sold 25 R8 LMS GT4s in the US Market, so when we see them in competition with other manufacturers and the success of the past weekend, it’s huge for us,” said Tristan Herbert, Manager of Motorsports and Customer Racing for Audi of America. “It’s something we’ve been wanting to celebrate in the IMSA GS class. We definitely fought for it. The folks at Carbahn – Steve Dinan and drivers Jeff Westphal and Tyler McQuarrie – have just been so close to winning many races, last year when it was introduced to the market, and then this year at Daytona.
“It was great to see them win, but it’s also very important for us. We’re against our competitors in the market not from just the street car side, but also in motorsports.”
There are 60 different Audi customer racing programs in the North American market that Herbert and his colleague Bernd Goeres manage across three levels – TCR, GT4 and the top-tier GT3. Audi is currently the only IMSA manufacturer to offer cars in all three classes as part of its ladder system for drivers and teams. It’s also the only manufacturer competing for a sweep of the 2019 Pilot Challenge class championships in GS and TCR.
“Fifty percent of our entire sales are actually track day customers – Monticello in New York, Spring Mountain in Las Vegas, Thermal Club in California, Lime Rock in Connecticut,” explained Herbert. “We have a lot of customers that buy R8 LMS GT4’s and Audi RS3 LMS TCR cars who just go out and track them.
“We’ve been investing a lot of time in trying to cultivate the track market, the gentleman driver who’s running at The Thermal Club on the weekends. That’s why we work with teams like Matt Moran and eEuroparts to really find those guys that are ready to graduate from running the track days at the club level into competing in places like IMSA and other series.”
And why Audi, one might ask?
If clinching last year’s first-ever TCR championship in the Pilot Challenge, in addition to two Motul Pole Awards and one win between the two series classes already in 2019 isn’t enough, Herbert points to the level of support that the manufacturer provides race in, race out to its customer teams at track.
“We have a full-time dedicated engineer for the GT4 program and a full-time dedicated engineer for the TCR Audi program as well,” said Herbert. “Any technical issues, any support or questions they have related to the platform, we can answer on site at any IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race.
“We also have a really good parts support program for TCR. We’re the only brand that has a truck on site with TCR Audi parts. I don’t think any other manufacturer offers parts support which tells you how important this market is for us. We have the most TCR cars in the field and we also have a separate parts truck that supports the GT3 and GT4 programs.”
If the level of support is appealing to team owners and crews, Herbert credits the “drivability” of the car that is alluring to drivers, especially those just starting out in their professional racing career.
“We offer three levels of motorsports platforms, but they’re all factory-built cars that come with 50,000 kilometers of testing,” Herbert said. “What you’re getting is a very well-tuned product. Customers really like the fact that it’s easy to drive and when you get it, it’s turnkey.”
And for those teams and drivers like Carbahn Motorsports pulling out their long overdue victory at one of the toughest road courses in North America?
“We give them the product, but at the end of the day I give the kudos to the teams because it’s execution and teamwork that wins races,” said Herbert.