Part of the deluge of OEMs to join Formula E over the last few years, we really thought Audi was in it for the long haul. Having only joined as a full factory team in 2017, though, the company is already calling it quits - it’ll be gone after the 2021 season. An even bigger surprise is where Ingolstadt will focus its non-customer motorsport attention instead: the Dakar Rally, the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA.
For the former, Audi is preparing “an innovative prototype” running “an electric drivetrain with a high-voltage battery and a highly efficient energy converter for the first time”. By “highly efficient converter” they mean a TFSI engine, technically making the car a series hybrid as opposed to a full-blown EV. This will give the car the necessary range to tackle Dakar’s longer stages, some of which were over 300 miles for the 2020 running of the event in Saudi Arabia.
Although Dakar is the main focus of Audi’s announcement, Audi Sport managing director Julius Seebach also confirmed the company is, “intensively preparing to enter the new sports prototype category LMDh”. This will include competing in both the Daytona 24 Hours and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
LMDh machines are eligible for the IMSA-organised WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and in the FIA/ACO’s World Endurance Championship, sitting alongside the new Hypercar Class cars in the latter. The new category involves LMP2-based machines with bodywork and drivetrains supplied by the manufacturer, paired to a standardised hybrid setup made with components from Williams Advanced Engineering and Bosch.
The announcements come just a few days on from the reveal of the e-tron FE07 (above), Audi’s first ground-up developed Formula E car. It will remain involved in the series as a powertrain supplier beyond 2021, however, while all of its customer racing activities with the likes of the R8 LMS will continue.