Audi Leaving WEC For Formula E

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Audi prototypes at Sebring (Fla.) Int'l Raceway in 2012. (Al Steinberg photo)
Audi prototypes at Sebring (Fla.) Int'l Raceway in 2012. (Al Steinberg photo)
Audi prototypes at Sebring (Fla.) Int’l Raceway in 2012. (Al Steinberg photo)

STUTTGART, Germany — Audi will be leaving World Endurance Championship and 24 Hours of Le Mans competition at the end of the season and taking its factory commitment to the Formula E world championship.

“We’re going to contest the race for the future on electric power,” said Audi Chairman of the Board of Management Rupert Stadler. “As our production cars are becoming increasingly electric, our motorsport cars, as Audi’s technological spearheads, have to even more so.”

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 begins this year with a strengthened partnership with Team ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport.

The commitment in the DTM, where Audi will be competing with the successor of the Audi RS 5 DTM in 2017, will remain untouched. In mid-October, the premium brand won the manufacturers’ and teams’ classifications.

In 2013, Mike Rockenfeller most recently brought the title of DTM Champion home for the four rings.

No final decision has yet been made concerning a future involvement in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (World RX). In the current 2016 season, DTM factory driver Mattias Ekström in his Audi S1 EKS RX quattro clinched the World Championship title early, competing against numerous factory teams. Up to now, Audi’s involvement has been limited to supporting the private EKS team. The brand is currently evaluating a possible extension of the commitment, the exciting topic of electrification being on the agenda in rallycross racing as well.

The departure from the FIA World Endurance Championship marks the end of a successful era. For 18 years, the brand was active in Le Mans prototype racing, winning the Le Mans twice-around-the-clock race 13 times.

Audi clinched the first victory of a TFSI engine (2001), the first success of a race car with a TDI engine (2006), plus the first triumph of a sports car with a hybrid powertrain (2012). In the brand’s 185 races contested to date, Audi’s Le Mans prototypes have achieved 106 victories, 80 pole positions and 94 fastest race laps. On two occasions, Audi won the FIA World Endurance Championship with the Audi R18 e-tron quattro race car. In addition, from 2000 to 2008, Audi, nine times in succession, secured the title in the American Le Mans Series, the world’s most important racing series for Le Mans prototypes at the time.

“After 18 years in prototype racing that were exceptionally successful for Audi, it’s obviously extremely hard to leave,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang 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.”