Audi quits Formula E for new projects in Le Mans LMDh and Dakar Rally

Audi will quit Formula E following the 2020-21 season ahead of a return to topflight sportscar racing with a new LMDh programme, in addition to a 2022 Dakar Rally assault

Audi quits Formula E for new projects in Le Mans LMDh and Dakar Rally

The German manufacturer offered technical support to the privateer Abt team during the first three seasons of the all-electric FE championship before taking full control prior to the 2017-18 campaign.

In the six years to date, the team has scored 12 victories - 10 for Lucas di Grassi, two for Daniel Abt - and won the 2017-18 teams' championship in the final season of the Gen1 cars.

However, the manufacturer will depart at the end of the 2020-21 season, despite the team developing a new powertrain for the latest e-tron FE07 car, the first time it has been designed in-house, as part of a ground-up two-year programme.

However, Audi will continue to operate in FE as a supplier of powertrains and uphold its deal to customer team Envision Virgin Racing until at least the end of 2022.

Audi FE team principal Allan McNish told Autosport: "At the end of season seven [2020-21], as an official Audi entry, we will stop our works involvement in Formula E.

"We will continue to support customer teams through season eight as well.

"For season seven, we still have maximum focus and maximum attack. There's no change to that at all. It's just that our official factory team will stop this particular part at the end of 2021."

Its FE exit will pave the way for a return to Le Mans 24 Hours competition - having exited the World Endurance Championship LMP1 class in 2016 with the conclusion of its R18 e-tron programme.

Audi is the second most successful manufacturer in Le Mans history, racking up 13 wins between 2000 and 2014.

From 2023, cars built to LMDh rules will be able to enter the WEC and IMSA SportsCar Championship as a cost-effective alternative to the Le Mans Hypercar rules being introduced to the WEC next year.

PLUS: Audi's greatest sportscar moments

Effectively a replacement for IMSA's current Daytona Prototype international regulations, the LMP2-based LMDh cars will feature manufacturer-produced bodykits and drivetrains, along with a standard hybrid system featuring a Williams Advanced Engineering battery and Bosch electric motor.

"We are intensively preparing to enter the new sports prototype category LMDh with its highlight races, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours," said Julius Seebach, managing director of Audi Sport GmbH.

"The most important message for our fans is that motorsport will continue to play an important role at Audi."

Audi's new Dakar project marks its return to rallying - a discipline in which it enjoyed great success with the Quattro in the early years of Group B.

PLUS: The Group B pioneer that transformed rallying forever

An Audi statement said that "an innovative prototype", which is expected to be based around its all-electric e-tron SUV, will tackle the Dakar in 2022.

"The Dakar Rally will replace Audi's factory involvement in Formula E," it said.

The Volkswagen Group, of which Audi falls under the umbrella, has massively expanded its all-electric motorsport operations in recent seasons.

In addition to the Audi FE team, this includes the VW ID.R prototype that holds the outright Pikes Peak and Goodwood hillclimb plus electric Nurburgring Nordschleife lap records.

This comes in tandem with the axing of the Audi DTM, VW World Rally, Audi World Endurance LMP1, Audi World Rallycross and factory Audi and Volkswagen World Touring Car programmes.

For the 2019-20 FE season, sister VW Group company Porsche joined the championship with drivers Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani and finished eighth in the standings - two places behind Audi.

Both FE teams' operations and powertrain technology are totally independent, with the Porsche set-up utilising the learnings of the 919 Hybrid LMP1 car - a project killed off at the end of the 2017 WEC season.

This news of Audi's decision to leave FE comes just a day after the Mahindra Racing team became the first FE outfit to commit to the championship for at least the next three seasons by signing up to the incoming Gen3 regulations.

With the FE grid at the maximum 24-car capacity, Audi's exit will afford space for a new two-car entry.

This is unlikely to be Honda, despite its F1 exit, and although Aston Martin executive chairman Lawrence Stroll held talks about a potential buyout of an FE team, the manufacturer has shelved plans for its all-electric Lagonda sub-brand in recent days.

Audi head of motorsport Dieter Gass (pictured) will also be vacating his position, with Seebach set to assume responsibility for the company's international motorsport activities.

"The DTM has shaped my life over the past eight years," said Gass, who succeeded Dr Wolfgang Ullrich in 2017.

"It was an incredibly intense time during which my family didn't see me very often on weekends.

"That's why the end of the DTM era, as we all know it, is a good opportunity for me to also start something new, especially since 2020 was a particularly intense year due to the integration of factory racing into Audi Sport GmbH."

shares
comments
WRC legend Carlos Sainz Sr joins Extreme E as driver for QEV team
Previous article

WRC legend Carlos Sainz Sr joins Extreme E as driver for QEV team

Next article

Abt to sit out season after turning down Formula E drive

Abt to sit out season after turning down Formula E drive
Load comments
Formula E's new toys ahead of its second-generation swansong Plus

Formula E's new toys ahead of its second-generation swansong

Formula E welcomes a mix of past, present and future for the 2021-2022 season. The old guard facing off against a sprinkling of newcomers, a fresh qualifying format amid a sporting rules shake-up and a range of minor tweaks to the existing all-electric machines are all subplots to the final campaign before the next generation arrives

The sharing mentality that transformed the fortunes of two Formula E teams Plus

The sharing mentality that transformed the fortunes of two Formula E teams

Electing not to share data with its competitive customer team would have been a straightforward means of gaining an edge on at least one of Mercedes' Formula E rivals last season. But by reciprocating the relationship forged under its initial HWA guise, when it was a customer to Venturi, both teams have reaped the rewards

Formula E
Nov 30, 2021
How Mercedes's Formula E squad replicated the F1 team's best trait Plus

How Mercedes's Formula E squad replicated the F1 team's best trait

With its ultra-successful sister team in Formula 1 and a support network providing some of the best minds and resources in the business, Mercedes Formula E team principal Ian James knew his squad had all the winning ingredients. But mixing it together was no easy feat and required key attributes to be grown from within

Formula E
Nov 29, 2021
How Formula E's polarising newcomer can prove himself Plus

How Formula E's polarising newcomer can prove himself

OPINION: Few figures in racing today divide opinion like Dan Ticktum. The Formula 2 race-winner now has the chance to wipe his professional slate clean with his move into Formula E, but it won't be easy at the squad which has brought up the rear for the past three years. Here are the three key criteria he must meet to make a lasting impression on the series

Formula E
Nov 27, 2021
How Mercedes pulled off a silent coup in Formula E Plus

How Mercedes pulled off a silent coup in Formula E

By virtue of its Formula 1 success, Mercedes was expected to rise to power in Formula E before long. That it won both the drivers' and manufacturers' championships this year, after only two seasons as a full works effort, belies a tricky path littered with potential pitfalls

Formula E
Nov 26, 2021
Why electric racing cars should be four-wheel drive Plus

Why electric racing cars should be four-wheel drive

OPINION: Circuit racing has traditionally favoured front- or rear-wheel-drive setups, eschewing the equal distribution of power. But for Formula E and other electric-powered series, our columnist believes it’s a perfect fit

Formula E
Oct 13, 2021
How motorsport's most prominent power couple found joint success Plus

How motorsport's most prominent power couple found joint success

The Wolffs have carved their own paths in motorsport, leading their respective teams to success in Formula 1 and Formula E. But the two came together last month as their drivers finished first and second in the FE drivers' championship - a feat they are hugely proud of. In a rare joint interview, they reflect on a remarkable season

Formula E
Sep 21, 2021
The top 10 Formula E drivers of 2020-21 Plus

The top 10 Formula E drivers of 2020-21

OPINION: The 2021 Formula E campaign was one without a narrative for much of the season, with no single car or driver able to break away from the pack. That makes choosing a top 10 especially difficult, particularly as the qualifying format meant some worthy performers were unable to enjoy their day in the sun

Formula E
Sep 19, 2021