Following a spate of recent rumors, Audi announced it would withdraw from the World Endurance Championship in favor of participation in Formula E. This marks the end of a 17 year dynasty, an era which saw Audi claim 13 overall victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
This shift arrives at the feet of the hulking Volkswagen emissions scandal, an event that continues to send shockwaves through the automotive conglomerate. The highly successful Le Mans Prototype Audis were almost exclusively diesel-powered, and as the automaker shifts away from TDI toward electric “e-tron” power, the continued use of diesel in Le Mans could potentially be considered tone-deaf.
As a silver lining, Audi’s motorsports budget will likely be cut by a significant amount. The cost of fielding successful entries into a WEC season borders on prohibitive, and with the arrival of sister-company Porsche, having two entries from the same autogroup is seen as redundant.
Now, Audi follows a handful of other automakers, including Jaguar and Renault, into the burgeoning field of Formula E.
“We’re going to contest the race for the future on electric power,” says Audi’s Chairman of the Board of Management Rupert Stadler. “As our production cars are becoming increasingly electric, our motorsport cars, as Audi’s technological spearheads, have to even more so.”
If Audi’s foray into Formula E doesn’t excite, look for the four-ringed badge in DTM and the World Rally Championship.