Audi has announced that they will no longer compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship from next year. The German manufacturer has decided to focus more on the Formula E Championship, putting an end to their eighteen-year-long involvement in WEC.
Audi’s Chairman of the Board of Management, Rupert Stadler, cited their reasons for prioritizing Formula E over World Endurance, largely including the growing presence of electric power in the automotive industry.
“We’re going to contest the race for the future on electric power,” said Stadler, who spoke to employees of the manufacturers’ motorsport department this morning, “As our production cars are becoming increasingly electric, our motorsport cars, as Audi’s technological spearheads, have to even more so.”
Audi has competed in the World Endurance Championship for the last eighteen years. During this time, the German manufacturer has claimed thirteen wins in the 24 hours of Le Mans, as well as drivers’ and manufacturers’ championship victories in 2012 and 2013.
In 185 starts as of now, Audi has claimed 106 victories. Along the way, they completed several milestones such as securing the first victories with a hybrid powertrain and the first for the TFSI and TDI engines in the mid-2000’s.
It is undeniable that Audi has left their mark on Endurance Racing, a fact that the Head of Audi Motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, commented on today:
“After 18 years in prototype racing that were exceptionally successful for Audi, it’s obviously extremely hard to leave,” said 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!”
Whilst it is disappointing to lose such a prominent name in the World Endurance Championship, from a business point of view, it makes perfect sense. In the automotive industry, the sales of turbodiesels are falling whilst the interest in electric-powered vehicles is rising.
Audi has already announced that they will launch all-electric production vehicles at the start of 2018. Motorsport has long been the proving/testing ground for technology that will make its way into the market for consumers, so it makes logical sense for Audi to concentrate on Formula E to develop their electric power-trains.
Audi also announced today that their involvement in other series such as DTM will remain unaffected, whilst also commenting that they are evaluating whether or not to increase their presence in the World RallyCross Championship; where they are currently represented by this year’s champion Mattias Ekstrom in a privateer entry.
Two rounds remain in this year’s World Endurance Championship. Audi are currently sat in second place in the Manufacturers’ championship, trailing Porsche by 59 points. Audi Sport Team Joest haven’t taken victory since the 6-Hours of Spa-Francorchamps back in May; when Oliver Jarvis, Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval took the checkered flag.
The final race for Audi in the World Endurance Championship will take place on November 19th at the 6 Hours of Bahrain.
Featured image courtesy of fiawec.com – http://www.fiawec.com/wpphpFichiers/1/1/ressources/Image/2016/Fuji%2016/GT7D3826-XL.jpg