Concurrent with VW’s announcement that it is ceasing all motorsport activities, Audi has shaken up its motorsport department with a management restructure at Audi Sport and the announcement of two new projects, a Dakar entry and a return to top-flight sportscar racing.
Current Audi Sport managing director Julius Seebach (above right) will assume responsibility for the company’s international motorsport activities in addition to his current role. Dieter Gass (above left), head of Audi Motorsport until the department’s recent merger with Audi Sport, will move to a different, as yet undisclosed, area of the business.
Audi will curtail its involvement as a Formula E manufacturer at the end of the 2021 season, which will be the last for the current Gen 2 cars, however, its powertrain will still be available to customer teams.
The company’s motorsport projects will instead center around the Dakar Rally and an LMDh sportscar project, the latter of which will allow it to race at flagship events such as Le Mans and the Daytona 24. The choice of LMDh is notable given Audi’s considerable presence in the USA where IMSA has not agreed to allow the coming generation of Le Mans Hypercars to enter Daytona, but IMSA-spec LMDh machines will be eligible for Le Mans.
Details of the company’s LMDh project remain limited, but given the rules in LMDh, it will have to use a chassis from one of four suppliers – Oreca, Multimatic, Ligier Automotive or Dallara – combined with in-house developed bodywork and powertrain. Given the company’s long-standing links with Dallara, which constructed many of its chassis (though it switched to YCOM in 2014 for the R18) the Italian company would be a logical choice.
Significantly, Audi’s Dakar project will utilize an electric drivetrain using a range extender concept. This would not be the first use of such a system on the Dakar, the OSCar e0 was the first to complete the gruelling endurance event with a range extender back in 2012, but Audi will be the first mainstream manufacturer to take this route.
“A multifaceted commitment to motorsport is and will remain an integral part of Audi’s strategy,” noted Markus Duesmann, chairman of the board of management and board of management member for technical development and product lines at Audi. “We want to continue demonstrating the brand’s slogan ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ in international top-level motorsport in the future and develop innovative technologies for our road cars. The toughest rally in the world is the perfect stage for this.”
On the subject of Audi’s withdrawal from Formula E, Duesmann noted, “Formula E has accompanied the transformation phase at Audi. Today, electromobility at the four rings is no longer a dream of the future, but the present. This is why we are taking the next step in electrified motorsport by facing the most extreme conditions. The many technical freedoms offered by the Dakar Rally provide a perfect test laboratory for us in this respect.”