Audi have announced that they will be ceasing LMP1 activities in the World Endurance Championship at the end of the 2016 season.
Rumours had suggested a possible exit at the end of 2017, when regulations would render the Audi R18s diesel engine obsolete, but the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal and the current industry demand for pure electric power are likely to have been key factors in the decision being brought forward. Audi’s motorsport programmes in the DTM and Formula E will remain.
Audi have been competing in the top tier of endurance racing for 18 years, during which time it has won Le Mans on 13 occasions, in that time becoming the first manufacturer to win with a diesel engine (2006) and an electric-hybrid system (2012). They also won both driver and manufacturer titles in the WEC in 2012 and 2013, and nine consecutive titles in the American Le Mans Series from 2000-2008.
The announcement is bad news for the WEC, which will now only feature four cars (two each from Toyota and Porsche) in the premier LMP1-H class, and a single LMP1-P entry with ByKolles. Six highly talented drivers will also be left without a seat.