IndyCar or sports cars could be on Audi's expanded U.S. racing agenda UPDATE "We would definitely welcome Audi to our sport," Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Jeff Belskus told SPEED.com on Sunday. "We are going to reach out to them, and it would be very meaningful to have a premier European brand competing in IndyCar.
"They have a great following among car buyers and racing fans, and I think with the level of competition we have between Chevrolet and Honda, it would be a big challenge for any manufacturer to come in and win right away, but we hope to have discussions with them very soon about this."
Belskus followed up on Monday, reaching out to Audi of America and Audi AG. Randy Bernard, his IndyCar CEO predecessor, did the same in 2010, but nothing came from the exchange.
GM Racing boss Mark Kent told SPEED.com he shares the same interest in having Audi join the IndyCar series, and believes they would become a formidable opponent.
"If you look at Audi's motorsport success, you can never underestimate their ability to win," he said. "They have a fantastic motorsports program, and if they were to come to IndyCar, I think they'd find success in the not too distant future."
"We'd be concerned about a manufacturer coming in and spending more than is justified than the business model outlined by the series," he said. "I would hope that, as we've seen in the past few years, IndyCar would put an emphasis on this to avoid runaway spending. As manufacturers, I'm sure we can sit down and make sure no one upsets the chemistry in such a way that everybody wants to get out of the series."
Honda motorsports manager T.E. McHale knows what it's like to compete directly against Audi in the P1 category, and says the German brand's renewed interest in open-wheel should be viewed as a positive.
"They've obviously proven their pedigree on the sports car side, and they were interested when the IndyCar roundtable on new-car development began in 2008, so it's great to hear they could be taking another look and possibly joining the IZOD IndyCar Series in the near future," he said. "We always want to prove ourselves against the best in any category, and Audi fits that bill."
McHale also agreed that bringing Audi into the IndyCar would raise the series' domestic and international standing.04/14/13 Audi is evaluating programs in IndyCar, Daytona Prototypes and DTM America as it looks to ramp up its involvement in U.S. motorsports according to Autosport, but Audi does not do open wheel racing, so don't expect that to change in the near future.
"Yes, I do think it would be a significant add to the series--from an OEM standpoint and a credibility standpoint," he continued." I think IndyCar racing would benefit from their inclusion, and also believe they would benefit from it."
The German marque's new research and development boss Wolfgang Durheimer revealed that Audi is in the process of making key decisions about its motorsport future in North America and could decide early in the summer in time for a program or programs to be launched for 2014.
"At the moment we are talking about ideas," he told Autosport. "We will have important discussions between now and when the holiday season starts, because we need to get our act together and decide when and where we will race."
Durheimer, who also co-ordinates motorsport for all the brands of the Volkswagen group, put meat on the bones of Audi Sport boss Wolfgang Ullrich's comments in January about a possible entry into the Prototype (currently Daytona Prototype) category of the new-for-2014 United SportsCar Racing championship.
Ullrich left the door open to a possible Prototype USRC entry by Audi, but Durheimer went further and stated that he was in favor of a move into the top class of the merged U.S. sports car series.
"I am personally in favor of Daytona Prototypes, because I think it is important to make overall wins," he explained. "Class wins [with the R8 GRAND-AM] are nice, but at the end of the day you have to win the race."
Durheimer said it was too early to say whether Audi would build its own chassis in addition to an engine or put its own bodywork on one of the three existing DP chassis on the market. He stressed that an Audi USCR car would definitely "look like an Audi."
INDYCAR ALSO A POSSIBILITY
An entry into IndyCar as an engine supplier is also possible, according to Durheimer.
"Another opportunity would be IndyCar, which I think is still very popular and the Indy 500 is an outstanding race," he said.
VW and Audi were part of the discussions that resulted in the new IndyCar engine formula introduced ahead of last year.
Durheimer also underlined Audi's support for the idea of DTM America, which is due to start in 2015 or '16, and explained that it was the brand's intention to compete when the series comes on stream.
"The DTM setup would be perfect, because we know the technology and the suppliers of the parts," he explained.
Durheimer said it was possible that Audi could compete in more than one of the categories under evaluation at some point in the future.
"Two of the three would be the maximum," he said. Racer.com
[Editor's Note: The Audi nameplate in Grand-Am Prototypes (soon to be called United SportsCar Racing Championship - USRC) and a VW nameplate in IndyCar does make a lot of sense.]