Audi returns to Le Mans in 2023, enters the Dakar Rally for ’22, and leaves Formula E
Audi has recently completed a review of its motorsport programs and has made a series of moves as a result. The big news is that Audi will return to the Le Mans 24 Hours with a new Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) car in 2023. The LMDh cars, based on the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) cars, are effectively the replacement for IMSA’s current Daytona Prototype international (Dpi) cars. The LMDh cars will feature manufacturer-produced body kits and drivetrains, along with a standard hybrid system that features a Williams Advanced Engineering battery and Bosch electric motor.
“We are intensively preparing to enter the new sports prototype category LMDh with its highlight races, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours,” says Julius Seebach, managing director of Audi Sport GmbH. In 2012, Audi scored the first victory of a hybrid racing car in the Le Mans 24 Hours. The Audi R18 e-tron quattro racked up three consecutive wins (2012, ’13, ’14) in the world’s most important endurance race before Audi exited the World Endurance Championship in 2016.
The other news is that in 2022, Audi will compete for the first time in the legendary Dakar Rally with a vehicle powered by an electric drivetrain. The drivetrain will utilize a high-voltage battery, which can be charged as required while driving via an energy converter in the form of a gas-powered engine.
The move was prompted by the organizer of the rally announcing its intention to transition from internal combustion-only vehicles as part of a green movement to make the event more sustainable. The goal is to encourage the use of alternative energy sources, including hydrogen-powered vehicles; Dakar will require all vehicles to make the switch to some form of hybrid energy by 2030. The Dakar is the world’s preeminent off-road rally, racing across some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world.
The Dakar Rally will replace Audi’s factory involvement in Formula E, which will end after the 2020–21 season. The use of the newly developed Audi powertrain by customer teams is a possibility beyond next year. Audi’s departure from Formula E will end a four-season stretch in which it was a full factory team in the all-electric championship. Rallying has been an essential part of Audi’s history: Quattro, the company’s all-wheel-drive system, originated when the company entered the World Rally Championship (WRC). It dominated the series with numerous victories and two drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles with the “Ur-quattro” rally car in the WRC between 1982 and 1984.
“In addition, we are evaluating other possible fields of activity for us in international motorsport,” says Seebach. “In doing so, we have our customers’ wishes in mind as much as the company’s future strategy, which is clearly focused on electrification and carbon-neutral mobility. This is why we are intensively preparing to enter the new sports prototype category LMDh with its highlight races, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours. The most important message for our fans is that motorsport will continue to play an important role at Audi.”