The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup has announced the creation of the Challenger Trophy for the 2019 season. Drivers who are relatively new to international GT3 competition will be eligible to score points towards the new title. The category is the latest addition to the Cup’s powerful development platform which incorporates professional driver mentoring, data sharing, and the new Audi R8 LMS GT3, specifically designed for privateers.
There will be a Challenger Trophy podium after each race. At the end of the season the top three points-scorers in the class who have participated in at least three full Cup race meetings will win prizes. A complimentary spare parts voucher worth 15,000, 10,000 and 5,000 Euros will be the respective rewards.
All drivers in the category will also compete for the overall Audi Sport R8 LMS GT3 championship. The GT4 championship will continue to reward the best performers in the Audi R8 LMS GT4.
“The new Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup Challenger Trophy is the latest addition to our suite of potent, proven driver development tools which form an integral part of the championship,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “The groundbreaking 2018, all-privateer season confirmed that we have all the elements in place to enable serious privateers to exceed their personal goals, and the new Challenger Trophy will now reward the efforts of newcomers to international GT3 competition.”
The Cup’s complimentary mentoring programme, provided by the multi-lingual Audi Sport Asia professional race drivers, is available to all Cup participants at every round. Driver benefits include comprehensive arrive-and-drive services, access to onsite corporate hospitality, private driver lounges, sports massage therapists and other bespoke, premium experiences.
Drivers and their sponsors also benefit from the series’ large media footprint. Every race will be streamed live online in English and Chinese, with a highlights show from each round broadcasted on TV sports channels across the world. In 2018, the live races and TV shows were watched by 45 million viewers in total. Additional Cup content is featured across Audi Sport customer racing Asia’s official social media platforms, which have over 1.2 million followers.
In 2019, driver development will be further accelerated thanks to more time on track. Each round will include 90 minutes of free practice sessions prior to two 15-minute qualifying sessions, while races will be a full 30 minutes plus one lap.
The global reach of Audi Sport customer racing also brings unique rewards and opportunities for Cup drivers. In 2018, four GT3 Cup drivers earned a seat on the Audi Sport customer racing Asia entry into this year’s iconic Total 24 Hours of Spa via the ‘Road to Spa’ programme.
Expanding upon this successful initiative, next season the Cup’s GT3 drivers will each be eligible to win one of three seats on the team for the 2020 Suzuka 10 Hours. The ‘Road to Suzuka’ brings the opportunity to be part of an officially-supported Audi entry at another prestigious race on a truly legendary race track. The highest points scorer in Australia and Malaysia combined, across the two China rounds, and in Japan, will each secure a seat.
The 2019 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup GT3 champion will also win a special edition road-going Audi R8.
The ‘Road to Shanghai 888’ prize will see the 2019 Audi R8 LMS Cup GT4 champion join two professional Audi Sport Asia drivers in a fully-funded official Audi Sport Asia GT4 entry in the Shanghai SIC 888 endurance race in 2020. The GT4 Cup runner-up and second runner-up will win an Audi Nürburgring Nordschleife experience in an Audi R8 for two and for one, respectively.
The 10-race, five-stop 2019 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup calendar spans Asia-Pacific and incorporates three F1-standard tracks. The eighth season opens at Australia’s spectacular Adelaide Street Circuit in March, where the Cup made its debut last season in front of 270,000 onsite spectators. Returning to China’s first-ever permanent race track, the Zhuhai International Circuit in the Greater Bay Area, the championship then moves to the home of the Chinese F1 Grand Prix in Shanghai. Arguably the greatest challenge for any racing driver, Japan’s iconic Suzuka Circuit awaits in August when the Cup races alongside the Suzuka 10 Hours. Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit will play host to what promises to be another white-knuckle end to the season in November.