Ingolstadt, Germany - Audi is to quit participation in the Le Mans 24 Hours sports-car race and the related World Endurance Championship after almost two decades, and shift its motorsport resources to electric-car racing.
The company is cutting costs in the wake of the ‘Dieselgate’ emissions scandal to fund a strategic shift to electric cars and autonomous driving, mirroring plans by its parent Volkswagen Group.
Audi boss Rupert Stadler told workers at Audi’s performance-car division on Wednsday: “We will conduct the race for the future electronically,” calling it the biggest transformation in the brand's history.
“We will conduct the race for the future electronically,” Chief executive Rupert Stadler told workers on Wednesday at Audi's sports-car division, according to a statement from Audi citing the biggest transformation in the brand's history.
Audi denied a report by Handelsblatt saying savings from pulling out of Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship would amount to an annual €300 million (R4.5 billion), although a source at Audi said the move would save the company nearly €100 million (R1.5 billion) per year.
Audi has won the 24-hour Le Mans race, one of the greatest tests of endurance for cars and drivers, 13 times in 18 years, a spokesman said, but would instead begin competing in the Formula E electric-car racing championship in 2017 in an attempt to boost the share of zero-emission vehicles to at least a quarter of its global sales by 2025.
He said it would stay in Germany's DTM series and was looking at the possibility of expanding its engagement in the World Rallycross championship where electrification will also play a role.