While it may sound shocking, reports are filtering in that Audi is all set bring an end a successful chapter in its motorsport history. In 21st-century endurance racing, no manufacturer has been more dominant than Audi. When the open-topped R8 LMP1 debuted in 2000, it paved the way for an astounding 13 Le Mans victories and numerous other endurance-racing wins. Audi’s WEC withdrawal is said to be a result of cost cutting following Volkswagen’s increasingly expensive diesel-emissions scandal. Both the Volkswagen and Audi brands are hinging their futures on an onslaught of electric cars planned to hit the market within the next decade. The push toward electrification will require significant R&D spending, and Audi’s LMP1 program stands directly in the way of that.
Then there’s the engine. When Audi debuted its first diesel-engined Le Mans racer in 2006, the R10 TDI, the brand sought to push diesel technology. After the fallout of VW’s scandal, though, diesel power is looking increasingly obsolete. In addition, the R18’s diesel engine will soon need significant and costly revisions if it is to remain competitive in the coming years.
Also Porsche re-entered LMP1 competition in 2014, winning Le Mans in 2015 and 2016 and the championship in 2015. Two competing LMP1 programs from brands with the same corporate parent is a hideously expensive, and arguably pointless, endeavor. Considering Porsche’s current momentum and Audi’s increased focus on electrification, the VW Group would be wise to withdraw Audi.