Audi Done With Le Mans Racing After 2017, Report Claims
The German luxury car maker may even back out of endurance racing entirely.
Thirteen-time Le Mans winner Audi might be one season away from withdrawing from the racing series it has spent much of the last 16 years dominating. According to a report from Autocar citing sources close to Audi CEO Rupert Stadler, Audi intends to leaving the World Endurance Championship at the end of the 2017 season.
The choice to pull out of global endurance racing reportedly stems from the budget cuts circling the Volkswagen Group following the eruption of the Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal. The report claims VW executives were unable to make financial sense of continuing to pit Audi against its sister brand, Porsche, in the WEC circuit. Each brand is reportedly allocated more than $219 million for its endurance racing budget.
In its report, Autocar said that VW's racing head, Wolfgang Durheimer, has been asked to simplify and water-down the group's racing efforts in order to expand the budget for other projects, such as electric car development. VW can use all the money for EVs it can find; as previously mentioned, the company is pushing to have 25 new electric models on the road by 2025. VW's call to pull Audi from LMP1 may also be connected to limiting its marketing and public display of diesel engines, like the ones used with Audi's R18 Le Mans car hybrid powertrain, in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal.
Audi and Porsche's WEC teams have already experienced cutbacks, as anyone can see with a single glance at pit lane. Instead of running three cars per manufacturer, both Porsche and Audi ran two cars each at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In addition to cutting the company's WEC efforts, Autocar reports that there are also talks that the company may pull out of German Touring Car [DTM] racing, but may also expand its presence in GT3 and GT4 races around the world.
Audi did not immediately respond to Autocar for comment on this matter.