FIA World Endurance Championship: Audi Sport to withdraw at the end of 2016
Audi Sport, the German manufacturer's motorsport division, has announced that it will withdraw from the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), including the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the end of 2016. The announcement was made by Audi's Chairman of the Board, Rupert Stadler, who said that given the current "burdens on the brand" the company will now focus on areas that will help Audi remain competitive in the future.
Speaking to the motorsport arm's employees, Stadler said that in light of this decision, the company will now focus on the all-electric racing series, Formula-E. Audi will also use the expertise of its motorsport experts in Neuburg and Neckarsulm to develop motorsport as well as production cars. "We're going to contest the race for the future on electric power, as our production cars are becoming increasingly electric, our motorsport cars, as Audi's technological spearheads, have to even more so", adds Stadler.
Audi currently participates in the 2016 Formula-E series in partnership with Team ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport and will extend full factory support to the team from 2017 onwards. This means that Audi will be actively involved in the technical development of the car.
Focusing its time and resources on Formula-E will help Audi in its plans of offering full-electric vehicles from 2018 onwards.
Audi's decision to pull-out of WEC brings an end to one of the most successful chapters in the history of motorsport. Audi has been part of the Le Mans prototype racing for the last 18 years, and in the 185 races that it participated in, the team clinched a record number of victories- 106 victories, 80 pole positions and 94 fastest race laps. It has also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans a record 13 times. And while at it, Audi also scored the first victory for a race car with a TFSI engine (in 2001), first victory for a race car with a TDI engine (in 2006) and the first win for a race car with a hybrid engine (in 2012). Audi has also won the World Endurance Championship (WEC) twice, while it secured the title in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) successively from 2000 to 2008.
Audi's winning streak at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was brought to an end in 2015, when sister VW group company, Porsche won the title. At the 2016 edition too, Porsche won the race, after the leading Toyota of Kazuki Nakajima rolled to a halt due to a technical problem, with three minutes to go. Team Audi finished in P3.
Audi confirmed that it will continue racing in the DTM ( Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) Series. The company won the DTM Championship back in 2013, with Mike Rockenfeller bringing home the title in an Audi RS 5 DTM.
With regards to the FIA World Rallycross championship, no decision has been made. Audi, however, could extend full factory support to the private EKS teams in the Championship as there's talk of electrification of Rallycross cars, which will also help Audi's electric car strategy. Audi's Rally Cross factory-backed driver, Mattias Ekstrom has already secured the 2016 World Championship.
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