Audi confirms it will terminate its World Endurance Championship (WEC) programme at the end of 2016 to focus on a factory Formula E effort
26 October 2016

Audi will end its World Endurance Championship (WEC) and Le Mans programme and switch efforts to Formula E at the end of this season.

The German brand confirmed that all 300 employees of its Audi Sport motorsport arm would be retained, but their focus would switch to Formula E when the 2016 season ends.

Chairman of the board of management Rupert Stadler told his staff this morning: “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’s departure from the WEC closes an 18-year-long spree in prototype racing, where it won Le Mans 13 times, making it the race’s second most successful manufacturer after Porsche, which has 18 wins.

“Obviously [it’s] extremely hard to leave,” said head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. “Audi Sport Team Joest shaped the WEC during this period like no other team. I would like to express my thanks to our squad, to Reinhold Joest and his team, to the drivers, partners and sponsors for this extremely successful cooperation. It’s been a great time!”

Audi’s Formula E commitment will focus on the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team (car pictured below). Although the brand has lent its name to the team since 2014, it is now providing ‘financial and technical support’ for the team.

Following this, Audi will ramp up its involvement towards becoming a fully-fledged factory team. ABT will become an official Audi Formula E team for the 2017/2018 season, which will begin next October.

Audi’s other major racing efforts include DTM (German touring cars) and World Rallycross. The company says its DTM programme will remain unchanged, with the Audi RS5 DTM’s successor on course to take to the race track at the start of the 2017 season.

Audi’s future in the World Rallycross Championship with the EKS team is not so certain, however. EKS and its driver-owner Mattias Ekström have been receiving support from Audi and a pair of S1 EKS RX racers (pictured below), but Audi is understood to be evaluating its future commitments in this area. As with parent company Volkswagen, Audi said the prospect of an electrified Rallycross class could sway that decision. 

Links to dieselgate

Autocar understands Volkswagen Motorsport boss (and Bentley chairman) Wolfgang Dürheimer was ordered to streamline the group’s motorsport activities in order to free up development budgets for a wide-ranging electrification strategy that will result in the Volkswagen Group introduction as many as 25 new electric cars by 2025.

The decision to end Audi’s commitment to LMP1 WEC racing is also tied to a decision made by the Volkswagen Group to no longer showcase its diesel engine technology in a motorsport environment in the aftermath of its diesel emission manipulation scandal.

It also follows a decision by Volkswagen chairman Matthias Müller to reduce the number of diesel engines across the group in favour of petrol-electric hybrid and pure electric systems.

In recent years, Audi’s WEC contenders have run a diesel-electric hybrid system, which has no direct connection with the technology in its road cars.

"One of the attractions of the two-brand LMP1 strategy was their differing driveline concepts," said a VW Group insider. "Bringing both Audi and Porsche to a common driveline concept would limit the technology transfer to our road cars.”

A further hurdle that counts against Audi’s continuation in LMP1 is the introduction of new driveline regulations. From 2018, manufacturers competing in the premiere class of the WEC will be committed to a 10 megajoule rule, which would require a major revision of the turbocharged 3.7-litre V6 diesel engine and electric motor application used by the existing Audi R18 e-tron quattro that runs under the 6 megajoule rule, including the adoption of a second kinetic energy recuperation system.

Cost-cutting initiatives to its motorsport programme put in place by the Volkswagen Group prior to the start of the 2016 World Endurance Championship resulted in Audi and Porsche reducing their presence at this year’s Le Mans 24 hours, both running two-car teams in place of the respective three-car programmes of recent years.

Earlier this year reports suggested that Audi could race a hydrogen-powered Le Mans car in the future - although the project was said to be dependent on the technology edging closer to reality for production cars than is currently the case. Audi’s ex-head of technical development, Stefan Knirsch, told Autocar that a hydrogen-powered Le Mans racer “could be possible”, although no timescale for such a car was set.

Sam Sheehan and Greg Kable

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Comments
21

14 October 2016
"hydrogen-powered Le Mans racer “could be possible” although no timescale for such a car was set." meaning it will never happen, thank the Lord. Anyhow I'm pretty sure they're be switching to forms of Electric racing and EV's as VW are a bit behind Nissan, BMW etc at the moment

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

14 October 2016
Absolutely agree on the electric racing point - I really wouldn't be surprised if Audi popped up in Formula E pretty soon - relatively low costs and technology directly transferable to road cars in a series that is likely to gain popularity quickly.

14 October 2016
Audi has already committed to a works Formula E team from next season - effectively taking over the Abt operation and bringing it in-house. From the moment that was announced last month, it seemed inevitable that WEC and/or DTM programmes were going to suffer.

The group decision not to pursue diesel in motorsport is a real killer for a brand which has spent the last decade bigging it up at Le Mans.

15 October 2016
xxxx wrote:

"hydrogen-powered Le Mans racer “could be possible” although no timescale for such a car was set." meaning it will never happen, thank the Lord. Anyhow I'm pretty sure they're be switching to forms of Electric racing and EV's as VW are a bit behind Nissan, BMW etc at the moment

hydrogen is still the way to go like it or not. Needs more investment thats all. Meanwhile all those billions of batteries from electrically powered cars is going to be next cause of global illnesses as they get chucked into landfill and into your water.

Meanwhile back on the farm - PORSCHE will take over the mantle from Audi and continue winning. It is what they do!!

what's life without imagination

15 October 2016
5wheels wrote:
xxxx wrote:

"hydrogen-powered Le Mans racer “could be possible” although no timescale for such a car was set." meaning it will never happen, thank the Lord. Anyhow I'm pretty sure they're be switching to forms of Electric racing and EV's as VW are a bit behind Nissan, BMW etc at the moment

hydrogen is still the way to go like it or not. Needs more investment thats all. Meanwhile all those billions of batteries from electrically powered cars is going to be next cause of global illnesses as they get chucked into .....!!

nope, hydrogen has failed. It's over, cars are 3 times the price, it uses 3 times the electricity as an EV to create the hydrogen fuel, costs more per mile than a diesel, and you can't fill one up. Need anymore reasons? I admire your loyalty though, could you be the last person to say hydrogen beats the EV car

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

14 October 2016
LeMans is a global brand, and that can't be ignored. DTM is Germany only. F1 would be the alternative, but with eye watering costs and, with pay TV, an increasingly isolated audience. Any automotive manufacturer requires inclusive viewing where anybody can see it to give maximum returns.

If this article highlights anything, it's that the LeMans series of races requires significantly more exposure. Those organising it must keep a eye on costs too; never let it get out of hand as it has done in F1.

14 October 2016
Something had to give, I guess. Having two brands from the same group competing with differing technology was ultimately unsustainable. However, I think the thinking is more marketing than financial and the line about not promoting diesel through motorsport is the real driver here.

Potentially space for a Peugeot return in 2018 then? Tavares has recently suggested that a return is possible if the numbers add up. A more buoyant PSA could afford the £100m needed per annum to compete.


14 October 2016
I've mentioned in the past few weeks of a possible ending of the LMP1 class following the trend of manufacturers entering Formula E and the total lack of new LMP1 entries from manufacturers since Nissan's ill-fated participation. And Audi's withdrawal more or less confirms this and could well be the end for manufacturer involvement at least in this class. With Toyota now in the WRC too, which isn't cheap, I wonder if they will sustain their WEC programme in the future? It seems Formula E appears more relevant to developing road car powertrains than the WEC, while I suspect the huge F1-rivalling cost of running LMP1 cars for a season doesn't help either. The only good news for the WEC in the past couple of years is the GT class which is attracting more manufacturers.

14 October 2016
I hate VW groups whole attitude to dieselgate, which seems to be if we cant cheat were gonna give up, the tech has existed for 10 years to clean up diesels, why dont they just use it ?

14 October 2016
typos1 wrote:

I hate VW groups whole attitude to dieselgate, which seems to be if we cant cheat were gonna give up, the tech has existed for 10 years to clean up diesels, why dont they just use it ?

They're already using Turbo(sometimes more than one), DPF's, Adblue injection etc anymore more Diesel fudges and it just won't be economic.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

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