Are you a wealthy race-team owner? Would you like to drive Audi’s Le Mans-winning R8 GT3? Good news: Audi is homologating the R8 LMS racer for use in the American Grand-Am Endurance Series, and will debut the car at the Daytona 24 Hours race in January 2012.
The R8 LMS is essentially a version of Audi’s successful GT3 race car that anyone (with a serious amount of money) can buy. To sell the car on our shores, Audi had to thicken the roll-cage walls; add a new splitter, diffuser, and rear wing to meet Grand-Am regulations; fit an intake restrictor and reprogram the engine computer to drop power to about 450-470 hp; reduce fuel-tank capacity to 22 gallons and add fuel-filling necks on both sides of the car; and eliminate the ABS and traction-control systems, which are banned under Grand-Am rules. The car continues to use a 5.2-liter V-10 engine, a six-speed sequential transmission, and rear-wheel drive.
The Audi R8 LMS will face off against another mid-engine European exotic: the Ferrari 458 Italia. Ferrari has homologated the 458 Italia Grand Am for use the American series by restricting the engine to “just” 500 hp, fitting a beefier roll cage, and adding series-required aerodynamic components that, according to Ferrari, make the 458 a bit less aerodynamic than from the factory.
Audi Sport will provide support to race teams using the R8 LMS throughout the 2012 Grand-Am seasons. In the future, the company will explore the possibility of entering the car in other endurance events in the U.S.