In a significant move for the electric car industry, Audi is taking up a factory-backed commitment in the all-electric Formula E racing series, and terminating its FIA WEC commitment, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, at the end of the 2016 season.
Audi has said that it is important to focus on the things that will keep the brand competitive in the years ahead, resulting in the termination of Audi’s commitment in endurance racing.
Chairman of the Board of Management, Rupert Stadler, said: “We’re going to contest the race for the future on electric power. As our production cars are becoming increasingly electric, our motorsport cars, as Audi’s technological spearheads, have to even more so.”
Audi says that the first all-electric racing series perfectly matches the strategy of offering fully battery-electric models year by year starting in 2018, with the brand currently being in the greatest transformation stage in the company’s history.
FIA Formula E is regarded as the racing series with the greatest potential for the future, and Audi’s commitment will commence in 2017. Audi has already intensified the existing partnership with Team ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport in the current 2016/2017 season. On the road toward a full factory commitment, the manufacturer is now actively joining the technical development.
The commitment in the DTM, where Audi will be competing with the successor of the Audi RS 5 DTM in 2017, will remain unchanged.
No final decision has yet been made concerning a future involvement in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (World RX). In the current 2016 season, DTM factory driver Mattias Ekström in his Audi S1 EKS RX quattro clinched the World Championship title early, competing against numerous factory teams. Up to now, Audi’s involvement has been limited to supporting the private EKS team. The brand is currently evaluating a possible extension of the commitment, with electrification also being on the agenda in Rallycross.
The departure from the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) marks the end of a successful era. For 18 years, the brand was active in Le Mans prototype racing. During this period, it scored 13 victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and set numerous technical milestones. At Le Mans, Audi clinched the first victory of a TFSI engine (2001), the first success of a race car with a TDI engine (2006), plus the first triumph of a sports car with a hybrid powertrain (2012). In the brand’s 185 races contested to date, Audi’s Le Mans prototypes have achieved 106 victories, 80 pole positions and 94 fastest race laps. On two occasions, Audi won the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with the Audi R18 e-tron quattro race car. In addition, from 2000 to 2008, Audi, nine times in succession, secured the title in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), the world’s most important racing series for Le Mans prototypes at the time.