Audi Sport has announced that it will offer a GT3-spec version of its R8 for customers from autumn 2009.

The R8 will be eligible for a range of national and international championships, including the FIA GT3 European Championship and the British and Belgian GT Championships.

While the road car runs with four-wheel drive, the race version will be rear-wheel drive and fitted with a newly developed six-speed sequential gearbox. While the suspension sources the majority of its components from the production lines, changes have been made to the front and rear of the car - including the addition of a large rear wing - to provide the required downforce.

"The R8 is the first production Audi bearing the name and genes of a successful racing sportscar and is therefore an excellent base from which to build up our first big customer sport programme," head of Audi motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich said. "Ever since the R8 was unveiled we've been inundated with enquiries about a race version.

"With the Audi R8 we will offer customers a racing sportscar equipped with high-calibre technology and the typical Audi qualities, but which is nevertheless easy to handle."

Audi factory driver Frank Biela has already completed a shakedown of the prototype version of the car, while the logistics and factory space required for the R8 customer programme will be created over the next few months.