Image: Audi

Audi has a new race car, which was unveiled Saturday at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. This is the third different R8-based motorsport monster, and certainly the most powerful of all three. It’s been built for a new-for-2020 international racing spec called GT2, which is a more powerful and less downforce-reliant class aimed at non-professional so-called gentleman drivers. Thus far, only Porsche and Audi have committed to building cars for this GT2 category, but we’re told more are coming.

“This sports car with its emotive high-performance V10 engine marks the top end of our customer racing program. The legendary event at Goodwood is the ideal venue for unveiling such a fascinating sports car,” said Oliver Hoffmann, CEO of Audi Sport GmbH. 

This Audi R8 will have more horsepower (640) than the GT4 version (495) and the GT3 version (up to 552). With a free flowing intake and exhaust, the GT2 racing version even makes a few horsepower more than the street V10+ model you can buy on the showroom floor right now. GT race cars have not made more power than road-going alternatives for a few years now, relying on tight air restrictors to reduce power.

The R8 LMS GT2 is actually based on a road-going R8 Spyder chassis, allowing for a lower roof line to get more air into the V10's roof-mounted scoop. Interestingly, the interior still carries much of its road-car switchgear. It’s wild looking, and more power is never bad in racing. I’m just not sure where this class is heading.

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Okay, if you’re not an avid fan of sports car racing, I apologize for this. It’s very confusing, even for an anorak like myself. So, there are a variety of series out there right now for sports car racing that begin with GT and end with a numeral, except GTE, which used to be GT2. Audi currently sells three varieties of R8 to fit into GT4 and GT3, and now they’ve added one to compete in a new specification, called GT2. GT3 is faster than GT4, so you’d expect GT2 to be faster still, but you’d be wrong. It’s more powerful than GT3, but it’s got less aerodynamic downforce and more weight, making for a slower lap time.

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The Stephane Ratel Organization is a motorsport sanctioning body which operates and promotes a variety of global racing events, and sets standards for different classes of international motorsport. GT3 and GT4 specifications are now FIA-recognized classes of race car because of SRO. Ostensibly GT3 was invented as a less expensive alternative to the pre-GTE GT2 class, but it has gotten faster and more expensive in the years since, which is why GT4 was introduced as a sub-GT3 racing class for non-pro racers. GT4 has, you guessed it, gotten too expensive. Factory effort teams have infiltrated the ranks of both classes.

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This new GT2 series plays to the gentleman racer who wants to race something that is fast and flashy, but without the tricky dynamics of full aero downforce. So GT2 fits somewhere between GT4 and GT3, and all of them are slower than GTE, so it’s as clear as mud.

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GT2 series will be added to SRO’s European and North American race series. Here in the U.S. market, SRO now promotes and operates the series formerly known as “World Challenge”. Look for the Audi R8 LMS GT2 to compete against Porsche’s 911 GT2 RS Clubsport in the class next season. Time will tell if it is subscribed to and if the racing is good.

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