Audi have announced a British all-star team to challenge for next season’s Le Mans 24 Hours title.
The Brackley-based Veloqx Motorsport squad will run an Audi R8 in the all-new Le Mans Endurance Series as well as the legendary French race, with several big-name drivers tipped to fly the British flag.
Ex-Formula One drivers Johnny Herbert, Allan McNish and Martin Brundle, as well as Le Mans winner Guy Smith, are among the leading contenders to share driving duties for the Audi UK-backed entry.
The new team will make their debut at the Sebring 12-hour race in Florida in March before the four-race European series begins with a 1,000-kilometre race at Monza.
Audi UK’s motorsport manager David Ingram set out his hopes that his squad can guide the R8 to a fourth Le Mans 24 Hours win in five years.
He said: “The 2004 Le Mans race will mark the third occasion an Audi entered by Audi Sport UK has contested the famous French race and I’m eagerly looking forward to next June.
“Our sportscar programme will consist of six races in 2004 and Veloqx are totally focused towards the Audi programme in these races and are hungry for success.
“Sam Li’s team has already made its mark in motorsport but he now wants to build a long-term relationship with a manufacturer in the prototype class which Audi feels is very important.”
Further 1,000km races at Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps and Nurburgring follow Le Mans as part of the Le Mans Endurance Series, which could offer a return to regular European competition for some of Britain’s top drivers.
Three-time grand prix winner Herbert is in pole position to take the seat having driven for the ADT Champion Audi team in an identical car, a role he is expected to retain in 2004.
McNish, meanwhile, is out of work after being released as Renault test driver and a return to Audi, for whom he drive in 2000, would seem likely if he fails to secure another Formula One role.
Le Mans winner turned television commentator Brundle and Smith would also be strong contenders.