Audi dropped a pretty big bombshell at the end of October when the German manufacturer announced it would be exiting the FIA World Endurance Championship at the end of 2016.
As one of the three major manufacturers in the top LMP1 class, it’s fair to say the news sent shockwaves through the series and the departure will leave a pretty big gap to fill.
Due to a shift in its motorsport programme, Audi will remain in the DTM series but leave the WEC to put more focus on the factory Abt Schaeffler Formula E team.
Here are the reasons why both the series and Le Mans and the WEC won’t be the same without Audi:
Sure, Audi doesn’t have a long and illustrious history in prototype racing. It took until 1999 to get the manufacturer involved but that kicked off an incredible run of success at the top of endurance racing.
Audi went on to win the famous Le Mans 24 Hours 13 times in 18 attempts, as well as taking the WEC titles in 2012 and 2013 respectively – brilliant achievements that have catapulted Audi to the podium in the record books, with the second most Le Mans victories in history (behind Porsche).
During Audi’s time in prototype racing and the WEC, it has undoubtedly been at the forefront of technology and innovation. That’s hardly surprising, considering the intense and huge investment Audi has made in becoming one of the most successful Le Mans and prototype racing manufacturers of all time.
It’s always been at the head of the pack when it comes to creative engineering, from bringing the turbodiesel to endurance racing in 2006 to the radical weight reduction and aerodynamics of this year’s R18 e-tron quattro. Of course this technology has trickled down to road cars and also helped push endurance racing forward at the same time. Nice work, Audi. Nice work.
Whether it’s current racing drivers or former ones, Audi’s prototype racers have had some brilliant people behind the wheel of them. Current drivers such as Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer have helped Audi to great success, as have super-fast previous drivers like (of course) Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish.
If you want proof of just how good Audi’s endurance programme has been, just look at the long list of drivers that have raced for the manufacturer.
The Audi vs Porsche rivalry of the last few WEC seasons, with Toyota mixing things up too, has been great for the entire series. The level of competition has been truly brilliant to witness; we’ll definitely miss the 919 Hybrid and R18 e-tron quattro battles next year.
This is, in part, due to the drivers involved who are able to battle so well but also the teams themselves, who have created brilliant spaceship-like machines that make for great racing and are (mostly) close on pace. It’s certainly been better than this year’s F1 fight…
Can we just take a minute to reflect on the beautiful pieces of racing machinery Audi has brought to prototype racing over the years. From the striking R8 to the bonkers-looking R15 TDI and the 2016 R18 e-tron quattro, Audi knows how to make some pretty crazy and stunning looking race cars.
The biggest thing we’ll all miss about Audi’s WEC/Le Mans effort is the talented team. It takes a lot of hard work and people power to get these racing machines built and on track. Achieving the level of success Audi has isn’t just down to drivers, or strategists at the team.
A great example of this is from the 2015 Le Mans race, after Loic Duval’s No.8 car clipped a Ferrari and hit the wall. Amazingly he brought the car back and with a little help from some duct tape (and the fine work of Audi’s team) it was back out on track in just four minutes!