Audi is realigning its motorsport strategy. The brand will terminate its FIA WEC commitment, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, at the end of the 2016 season. Instead Audi is taking up a factory-backed commitment in the all-electric Formula E racing series.
Speaking to 300 employees of the motorsport department on Wednesday morning, Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of management, Audi, put the strategic decision in the context of the current burdens on the brand, pointing out that it was important to focus on the things that would keep Audi competitive in the years ahead. That is why the board of management had decided to terminate Audi’s commitment in endurance racing. In the future, Audi will be using the know-how and skills of the motorsport experts from Neuburg and Neckarsulm partially in motorsport and partially in production development.
“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,” commented Stadler.
The first all-electric racing series perfectly matches the strategy of offering fully battery-electric models year by year starting in 2018, Audi currently being in the greatest transformation stage in the company’s history. The commitment in FIA Formula E will already commence in 2017. Audi has thus 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.
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It also said that some of the technical resources within Audi Sport would be diverted into the development of production vehicles.
The decision comes against the backdrop of declining sales of turbodiesels, the technology Audi showcases in the WEC, and political pressure in some markets to outlaw diesels.
A requirement of the participation of two brands from the Volkswagen Group, Audi and Porsche, in the WEC is that they used different technologies.
Audi has lent its name to the Abt team's Formula E programme since the beginning of the series in 2014/15 and is stepping up its involvement for the 2016/17 season in what is envisaged will become a full factory engagement.
Audi's participation in the DTM is unaffected by the decision, and it is considering expanding its involvement in World Rallycross, where it currently offers technical support to 2016 champion Mattias Ekstrom's privateer team.
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Motorsport summed up: “After 18 years in prototype racing that were exceptionally successful for Audi, it’s obviously extremely hard to leave. 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!”
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