Audi will enter Formula E as a manufacturer by taking over Abt's entry
The deal effectively turns Abt, already backed by Audi, into the German firm's works outside. The team will be renamed Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler for the 2017/2018 Formula E season.
“We’ve been supporting the Formula E commitment with increasing intensity in recent months – on the race days, in the development of the new powertrain and in numerous off-track activities as well,” said Peter Mertens, Audi’s technical development boss.
“That Audi will be the first German automobile manufacturer to be actively involved in the racing series starting next season is also a clear commitment of our brand to electric mobility, on the race track as of December and next year on the road as well with the new Audi E-tron.”
Like Jaguar and DS with their Formula E teams, Audi has said its racing outfit will benefit the development of its future electric road models. The brand’s first dedicated electric model, the E-tron SUV, is due to make production in 2019. Audi is also gearing up to produce an all-electric supercar.
Audi is expected to retain Abt’s current driver pairing of Lucas di Grassi, an Audi factory driver and former Formula 1 racer, and Daniel Abt, the son of the team's owner, Hans-Jürgen Abt.
Abt Schaeffler has consistently been a front-running team, securing five wins since it entered in the series’ inaugural 2014/2015 season. The team is currently second in the constructors' standings, with di Grassi second in the drivers' title race.
Audi has ramped up its Formula E involvement following its recent departure from the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and Le Mans, where it had raced in the top class for 18 years.
The move was linked to cost-cutting by Audi's parent company, the Volkswagen Group, in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal. The Audi WEC team's 300 employees shifted their focus to the firm's other motorsport projects, including Formula E.
The current season of Formula E next heads to New York for a double-header weekend on 15/16 July.