2016 Audi R18 LMP1 race car
Is Audi about to end its participation in the World Endurance Championship?
Auto Motor und Sport, citing rumors out of Audi’s German headquarters, on Friday reported that the 2017 season could be the automaker’s last.
Audi declined to comment but there are several good reasons for the automaker to exit the sport which only a few years ago it dominated. Recall, Audi managed eight wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the highlight of the WEC, between 2006 and 2014.
- Unfortunately for Audi, its endurance racing efforts have centered on diesel technology. However, with the emissions cheating scandal and the resulting focus on electric technology at the Volkswagen Group, continued promotion of diesel technology is contradictory to the new message the automaker is signaling.
- Tying in with the previous point, Audi is set to enter the Formula E Championship in 2017 and will thus have to allocate a large proportion of its motorsport budget to the electric car series. And with the cost cutting measures at the VW Group, another fallout of the emissions scandal, two dedicated motorsport programs could be seen as a bit decadent.
- Then there’s fellow VW Group brand Porsche which is also competing in the WEC. Porsche is proving the new dominant force since entering the premier LMP1 Hybrid class in 2014. Porsche is the reigning champion and is also leading the 2016 season. In addition, Porsche uses a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain for its cars, which is in keeping with the automaker’s upcoming product strategy.
- There are also some regulation changes coming in for the WEC’s 2018 season that will require a significant—and costly—redesign of Audi’s LMP1 race car.
We’ll update the story as soon as we know more.