Ever since the four-ringed brand has been competing in the FIA WEC (World Endurance Championship), it’s dominated. Audi has been one of the winningest teams in recent memory in all forms of endurance racing, including the 24-hours of Le Mans, where Audi had 13 victories in 18 years. However, Audi is hanging up its WEC cleats after the 2016 season and swapping them out for Formula E ones instead.
Audi’s Chairman of the Board, Rupert Stadler, spoke in front of 300 employees for Audi’s motorsport department to explain the change. “We’re going to contest the race for the future on electric power,” says Stadler. “As our production cars are becoming increasingly electric, our motorsport cars, as Audi’s technological spearheads, have to even more so.” Formula E does make sense for the Audi brand to focus its motorsport energy on electric technology, given that’s the direction it seems the auto industry is going.
Many are wondering if Audi is possibly doing this as almost a PR move, to get away from the diesel scandal that’s been rocking the entire Volkswagen Group. So maybe Audi is trying to reverse its image from dirty diesel engines to clean electric cars, and doing so in motorsport could very much help the brand’s image. Motorsport makes a big impact on a brand’s image and how people perceive it. It also helps develop technologies for road cars and, with Audi developing a ton of electric and hybrid cars for the future, this could be incredibly helpful.
It is sad to see Audi leave the world of endurance racing, especially considering how successful it was. However, this is a new chapter in the brand’s rich motorsport history. “After 18 years in prototype racing that were exceptionally successful for Audi, it’s obviously extremely hard to leave,” said 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!”