Audi announces FE exit in favour of return to Le Mans, Dakar Rally

Audi returns to sportscar racing and the Dakar Rally but it comes at the cost of its Formula E programme
Audi Sport Team Abt Schaeffler
Audi Sport Team Abt Schaeffler

Audi has announced a major overhaul of its motorsport programme by confirming it will scale back its involvement in the FIA Formula E Championship and pursue a return to endurance racing and the Dakar Rally.

The German has been involved in Formula E since its inaugural race in 2014, initially providing support to affiliated partners ABT before upgrading that to a full factory effort from Season 5. In six seasons, Audi has won 12 races, with Lucas di Grassi winning the Season 4 drivers’  title.

However, Audi - having already confirmed its exit from DTM - has confirmed it will limit its involvement from Season 8 (2021-2022) to simply supplying powertrains existing customer outfit Envision Virgin Racing. The change of strategy has subsequently cost di Grassi and Rene Rast their spot in the team at the end of the year.

In lieu of this, Audi will instead make a return to endurance racing - most notably the Le Mans 24 Hours - with a machine developed around the FIA’s ambitious new LMDh regulations.

Audi is the most successful manufacturer in the history of endurance competition, achieving 13 victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours between 2000 and 2014 - before exiting to focus on Formula E - while it spearheaded the introduction of the diesel LMP1 prototype.

The decision to follow the LMDh rules appears to signal a focus towards the US market in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, but it will be built to compete at Le Mans.

Even more ambitious, however, is Audi’s decision to take on the Dakar Rally with an ‘innovative prototype’ based around its electric e-tron SUV in which it will attempt to make history by completing and winning the gruelling event without fossil fuels.

It is just the latest overhaul of parent company Volkswagen’s motorsport programme which has seen all of its factory-supported efforts in series’ that aren’t angled towards eclectic competition, including the World Rally Championship, World Rallycross Championship, WEC LMP1 and touring cars.

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