In a speech in front of employees from Audi’s Motorsport Department today, Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of Audi, announced the brand’s withdrawal from the FIA World Endurance Championship. Focus shifts towards the Formula E and World Rallycross championships. It’s DTM entry is continued and not influenced by it’s withdrawal from WEC. The withdrawal probably has to do with Audi’s upcoming fully electric models in 2018, the financial implications of “dieselgate” for the Volkswagen Group and increasing political pressure in some countries to ban diesel engines, which Audi uses in the WEC, in general.
Present at the 24 hours of Le Mans since 1999, Audi only missed victory in that year (BMW), 2003 (Bentley) and 2009 (Peugeot). In 2015 and 2016, Audi had to let the honours go to Porsche. They were victorious 13 times in 18 years.
Pierre Fillon (ACO president) and Gérard Neveu (CEO of FIA WEC) both stated that although this is a big loss to the championship and the 24 hours of Le Mans, one door closes and another opens. Gérard Neveu was even quoted saying “One manufacturer is leaving, others will soon be arriving”. Of those “others”, currently only BMW is sure to enter the GTE class with a factory entry in 2018.
Sad to see them go, I hope new manufacturers enter quickly!