Since its debut at Le Mans, 17 years ago, Audi has won the notorious competition 13 times, making it one of the most successful teams/manufacturers. Even so, it’s future there reportedly looks bleak.
Autocar reports that high-raking insiders, close to chairman Rupert Stadler, suggest Audi will be retiring its LMP1 program from racing. That includes the program dedicated for the World Endurance Championship (formerly known as the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup) and, subsequently, Le Mans.
The alleged decision comes due to Volkswagen’s cost-cutting initiatives forced by the “Dieselgate” scandal. That and the fact the German colossus has two companies, Audi and Porsche, competing against one another in the series – each with a season budget of over €200 million ($220 million). Moreover, the Le Mans 24-hour race is the only race in the series that attracts global attention, with one insider pointing out there can be only one winner each year:
“Whatever way it turns out, one of our brands is deemed to lose,” said an insider.
However, the final nail in the coffin for Audi LMP1 program could be Volkswagen’s alleged decision to stop showcasing its diesel engine tech in motorsport, in the company’s pursuit of reducing the number of diesel engines across the group.
“One of the attractions of the two brand LMP1 strategy was their differing driveline concepts. Bringing both Audi and Porsche to a common driveline concept would limit the technology transfer to our road cars,” said the insider.
It looks like Audi is facing multiple (major) hurdles in this particular area, and if the rumors turn out to be true, 2017 will be the last year we’ll see the Ingolstadt car maker race on the Circuit de la Sarthe.