Put to the test, the new Audi R8 LMS GT2 passes with flying colours – a car that is set to thrill in 2020 when the 470kW beast lines up for competition.

4 November, 2019

It is the most powerful race car ever built by Audi Sport customer racing. With an output of 470kW, the Audi R8 LMS GT2 marks the top end in the model line-up, and from next year onwards, gentleman racing drivers around the world are already preparing to take the car to the track for some serious competition – and it’s not hard to see why. 

The Audi R8 LMS GT2 uses the near-production evolution of the 5.2-litre V10 engine from the R8 model range. The proven Audi power-plant has been designed as a naturally aspirated unit for the first time in the racing version, delivering 470kW and, as a result, offering nearly 30 percent more power than the most powerful version in the Audi R8 LMS GT3. 

Unlike the GT3 and GT4 models, its structure is not based on the Coupé chassis but on the Spyder version of the Audi R8 production model.

James Sofronas was the first customer of Audi Sport customer racing to experience the capabilities of the Audi R8 LMS GT2. The 51-year-old American has been active in motor racing since 1994 and been associated with Audi Sport for many years. The owner of the GMG Racing team contested his first races with the Audi R8 LMS in the United States in 2012. In 2013, Sofronas even fought for the title in the Pirelli World Challenge with the GT3 version of the model. 

As a privateer, he ultimately had to admit defeat against a General Motors factory-backed programme by the narrowest of margins, and as the runner-up celebrated an unforgettable season. Five years later, James Sofronas made history – in 2018, he was the first customer worldwide to lead the Audi R8 LMS GT4 to a title win in its maiden season. As a driver in the Pirelli World Challenge, he not only won a single but as many as three classifications, plus GMG Racing clinched victory in the teams’ classification.

“When I saw the car [Audi R8 LMS GT2] for the first time I was stunned by the way it looked. Due to its aerodynamic components such as the wing and front splitter, its ground-hugging stance and impressive air scoop above the roof, it appears like it’s ready to attack. Of course I was delighted to be the first to drive a race in it,” Sofronas said.

“The Audi R8 LMS GT2 weighs just a little more than 1300kg, has enormous power and achieves a high top speed. That’s perfect for gentleman drivers who are not as experienced as typical GT3 drivers.” 

“The car isn’t just an outstanding racing car, but also perfect for track days,” James Sofronas stresses. “As a student I started driving road cars on race tracks. But once you’ve gone to the limit in a racing car with real tyres, a good suspension and powerful brakes for the first time you don’t want to switch back to a production car. And that’s exactly what the Audi R8 LMS GT2 perfectly shows, too.”

The team principal and racing driver from California is highly impressed with the car’s performance. “The Audi R8 LMS GT2 is very lively, the throttle responds to the smallest change, the steering provides good feedback and handling at the limit is very predictable,” James Sofronas says. “The car is hardly slower but much easier to drive than a GT3 model. A lot of new customers will no doubt really appreciate this.”

“I love the sound of the V10,”he says. “You also want to really hear a racing car. Going to the rpm limit and experiencing the engine in the process is huge fun. I love naturally aspirated engines. Their available rpm range is larger than that of turbos and the power delivery is very linear. As a result, the performance of the Audi R8 LMS GT2 is absolutely predictable in any gear.” 

“This car is not only easy to drive but also easy to field,” says the seasoned racer. “You can go to the race track with one or two mechanics, drive there all day, and only have to check the tyre pressures and fluids. You don’t even have to change anything. Many of the components of the Audi R8 LMS GT2 are close to those used in production cars, but on the track it’s nearly as fast as a GT3 racing car. You really get the best of two worlds. I had a lot of fun with a car that’s fantastic to drive.”

Stéphane Ratel Organisation (SRO), which has been organising and promoting GT racing for more than a quarter of a century, has set its sights on a specific target group with the new GT2 class. It exclusively addresses the large group of gentleman drivers and pros are not allowed to race there. Starting in 2020, SRO will organise racing series for the Audi R8 LMS on three continents, America, Europe and Asia. The GT2 Sports Club Europe will kick off in 2020 with a test day in June, the first of five events will follow at Misano on 4/5 July. In addition to these, SRO racing series, other championships are planning to open their classes for this new category. In addition, Audi is targeting another group – those who attend track days and race resorts. There, owners can permanently house their racing cars at the facility and need only turn up, strap in and take the car out on the track.

Time to start your engines.

James Sofronas and Stéphane Ratel.