Audi Drops LMP1 Programme for 2017 to Focus on Formula E

After the announcement that Audi will drop their LMP1 programme at the end of 2016, Craig Woollard looks at the team's history in the LMP1 category, and what their exit will mean for the World Endurance Championship.

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One of the biggest names in modern sportscar history – Audi Sport has announced today in a statement on their website that they will be dropping their revered LMP1 programme at the end of 2016, to focus on a new project with the Abt Schaeffler team in Formula E, which will see Audi become yet another manufacturer to put in a significant amount of resource into the relatively young category. Despite the news that Audi drops LMP1 from their racing agenda from 2017, it seems as if no other manufacturer will take their place in the World Endurance Championship.

Audi Drops LMP1 Programme for 2017 to Focus on Formula E

The future of both Audi and Porsche in the WEC were in doubt following parent group Volkswagen’s involvement in what became ‘Dieselgate’ – something Audi pioneered in sportscar racing in the modern era. For 2016, both Audi and Porsche brought just two cars to the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans, instead of the three which we saw in 2015.

Audi first entered Le Mans in 1999 with the R8C in what was then the LMGTP category. Since 2000, they have achieved no less than 13 victories at the famous 24-hour event – most recently with Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer in the 2014 race. Audi’s success in the United States is also large – winning an incredible 68 American Le Mans Series races between 2000 and 2008, through either factory efforts or through privateers.

Audi is known for bringing the diesel-powered TDI series, and later the hybrid-powered e-tron quattro to the world of sportscars, with massive success. They won the inaugural FIA World Endurance Championship in 2012, and retaining it in 2013. They lost out to Toyota in 2014 and Porsche in 2015. So far in 2016, Audi has won just once – at the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

This move will see a number of top drivers without drives for 2017, and with Rebellion Racing dropping their LMP1 programme as well, it would seem as if these drivers will have to seek drives outside of the series, or in lower categories. Instead, Audi will put their efforts into the Formula E series, which now boasts yet another massive manufacturer.

Audi will make their final WEC start at the Six Hours of Bahrain, on the 19th of November.
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