This is the brand-new third model in Audi Sport’s line up of R8-based race cars – the Audi R8 LMS GT2.

The R8 GT2 has been developed to sit between the existing GT4- and GT3-spec R8 LMS machines for a new category aimed at amateur drivers. Organised by SRO – the brains behind GT3 and GT4 – the new GT2 class is intended to bridge the growing gap between production-based GT4 and thoroughbred GT3 cars.

According to SRO, the all-pro driver line-ups at the front of the GT3 field and the increasing speed of the cars is pushing out the amateur drivers that were the backbone of the category in its early days. Indeed, the Blancpain Sprint Series doesn’t have any ‘ams’ competing this year. GT2 is intended to bring the amateurs back into the shorter races.

The R8 GT2’s spec splits the difference between the GT4 and GT3. It is, however, the most powerful of the trio, its 5.2-litre, naturally-aspirated V10 making 640hp. As there’s no Balance of Performance system for GT2 – yet – the engine can run unrestricted. By contrast, the R8 GT3 only produces around 560hp, thanks to the BoP.

The R8 GT2 tips the scales at 1,350kg – about 100kg less than the GT4 but slightly more than the GT3. Oddly, where its siblings are based on the R8 coupe, the GT2 is based on the R8 Spyder to allow better upper-body aero, with bits of the coupe’s roof structure mixed in. The aero package features various splitters, wings, diffusers and a flat floor, all made from CFRP.

Brakes and suspension are perloined from the GT3 and GT4 parts bins. Anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control all feature, making it safe and friendly for less gifted drivers. It’ll still take real commitment to get the best from the R8 GT2, though.

According to SRO, GT2 lap times won’t get anywhere near those of GT3 as the cars have less downforce and less sophisticated running gear. But they will be quicker than GT4s. We’ll have to wait for the cars to hit the track to find out exactly what the margins are. For reference, at the last round of the British GT Championship, the gap between the GT3 and GT4 pole-sitters was around nine seconds.

At this stage, Audi is the only manufacturer to commit to the GT2 category, but SRO expects up to five or six to be on board by the time the inaugural season gets underway in 2020. By our count, at least 20 manufacturers currently contest GT3 and GT4 – or will do soon – so there is plenty of scope for GT2 to grow.

GT2 will initially run alongside GT3. However, SRO is also using it as a buffer against any future dictats from motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, that take GT3 in a direction SRO doesn’t like. A few years ago, the FIA tried to merge GTE and GT3. SRO was able to stop that move on cost grounds, but it may not be able to fend off future changes.

Incidentally, the GT2 category has existed before as the second tier of international GT racing, below GT1. When spiralling costs rendered GT1 unsustainable, GT2 became the top class. It subsequently morphed into GTE, which runs in the World Endurance Championship and the IMSA SportsCar Championship in America.

That’s probably clear as mud, so let’s simplify it. There are now four rungs on the international GT racing ladder with GT4 at the bottom, then GT2, GT3 and GTE at the top.

If you’ve managed to wrap your head around the concept and fancy racing in GT2, the R8 LMS GT2 will set you back EUR338,000.

We’ll be watching with interest to see if the whole GT2 concept takes off. Which it probably will. SRO is run by some very clever people who know exactly what racing drivers of all different types want.

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By Graham King