Published On: Tue, Oct 30th, 2018

Audi’s Motorsport History — And What Might Lie Ahead

Audi has enjoyed a lot of success in motorsport over the years, recording remarkable achievements in the likes of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the gruelling 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Audi’s Motorsport History

Join Audi dealership Vindis as they shine a spotlight on many of these incredible accomplishments when the German manufacturer has been chasing the chequered flag. They will also look to the future and whether there’s a possibility that Audi could make more appearances in the motorsport world in years to come — after all, they’ve already moved into Formula E recently,though could a stint in Formula One soon be on the cards too?

Audi at the World Endurance Championship

The motorsport scene was rocked by an announcement back in October 2016 that Audi would be ending its LMP1 programme at the end of that year’s season — a decision that meant that the brand was bringing down the curtain on well over a decade of being one of the dominant players of endurance racing.

Comments from FIA WEC series boss Gerard Neveu summed up the feelings shared by fans and those involved with the event alike, when he stated: “We understand this decision [by Audi], although obviously we regret the departure of a major player in the WEC. Audi has been involved in endurance racing for 15 years, and more particularly in the first five seasons of the WEC.

“Today we spare a thought first for everyone at Audi Sport and at Team Joest. We offer them our admiration and gratitude for their extraordinary sporting performances in the WEC since 2012.”

Indeed, Audi’s performances at the FIA WEC since the new era in endurance racing was ushered in during 2012 will go down in motorsport folklore.

The German car maker wasted no time in showcasing their immense capabilities, becoming the first race winner of their category in the new WEC in the 2012 season-opener. After another seven races, Audi were celebrating again by clearly winning the 2012 FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship — they ended the season 113 points ahead of Toyota (though it must be noted that the Japanese manufacturer only entered the competition from the third round onwards).

While Toyota did put up a tougher fight in 2013, including when the Japanese car maker recorded their first racing victory in the final round of that season in Bahrain, Audi made it two FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship wins on the bounce. Their total points haul of 207 points was 64.5 points ahead of that recorded by Toyota.

Audi were eventually knocked off the summit when they came runner-up to Toyota in the 2014 FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship. While they never managed to claim the title again before pulling out of the event entirely at the end of 2016, the German manufacturer still gave fans plenty to talk about in their final two years in the motorsport.

They began the 2015 FIA WEC season by beating Porsche at Britain’s Silverstone circuit in a nail-biting race that saw the two teams swapping the lead on numerous occasions, and then followed that victory up with a first-place finish at Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Audi would eventually finish second once again in the 2015 FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship — the same position that they recorded in the 2016 season.

Fortunately, they managed to ride off into the sunset in style by winning the final round of the 2016 season, held in Bahrain.

Audi at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race

When Audi announced that it was pulling out of the World Endurance Championship in 2016, the news also meant that the German manufacturer would no longer be competing in the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race — the event makes up one fixture of the WEC.

Audi has certainly revelled in this competition over the past couple of decades, with 13 victories recorded since they made their debut with a third-place finish in 1999. While that statistic is impressive in itself—the German car maker is the race’s second most successful manufacturer behind just Porsche who have 18 victories — it’s the way they have repeatedly rewritten the history books that is just as remarkable.

History was made when the Audi R8 recorded a hat-trick of wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race between the year 2000 and 2002, for instance, while the Audi R10 TDI became the first diesel-powered racing car to take the chequered flag at an endurance racing event that has been on the race calendar since 1923.

It must also be acknowledged that Audi cars fitted with TDI technology have won 24 Hours of Le Mans races on eight separate occasions, not to mention that with the Audi R15 TDI, the German manufacturerwas able to revel in a 1-2-3 victory in the fastest 24 Hours of Le Mans race in history — the car set a new distance record in the process.

Audi still wasn’t finished leaving their mark on one of motorsport’s most famous races. With the Audi R18 e-tron quattro winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 2012, this was the first time that a hybrid racing car took the chequered flag at the event — the same vehicle would go on to take victory in the 2013 and 2014 competitions.

The German manufacturer would bring the curtain down on its time competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race with back-to-back third-place finishes at the 2015 and 2016 events.

Audi in Formula E

During Audi’s announcement that they were exiting the World Endurance Championship after the 2016 season, the German manufacturer’s chairman Rupert Stadler stated that they were “going to contest the race for the future on electric power”. So how has the decision to focus on Formula E fared for Audi so far?

Well, the company had actually already made history before even completing a lap of a Formula E circuit, as they became the first German automobile manufacturer to race in this motorsport. However, this would just be a sign of things to come as Audi set out to showcase their motorsport prowess in Formula E.

After Brazilian driver Lucas di Grassi became the FIA Formula E world champion in the 2016/17 season when racing for Team ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport, Audi has been involved in the following feats:

  • In March 2018, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler driver Daniel Abt became the first German driver to win a race in Formula E — clinching the chequered flag at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, in Mexico City.
  • In May 2018, the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team recorded first place, second place, the pole position spot and the fastest race lap at Tempelhof, in the German capital city of Berlin. This set of accomplishments meant that the team collected the maximum points haul of 47 points, a feat that had never been achieved before in the 41 previous races of Formula E.
  • In June 2018, Lucas di Grassi won the first E-Prix race to be held in Switzerland. The race was held on a city circuit around Zurich and also represented the first international circuit race to be hosted across the whole of Switzerland since 1954.
  • In July 2018, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler completed a fantastic fightback from a relatively slow start to the 2017/18 Formula E season — in fact, they were still 74 points behind their rivals Techeetah after seven races and with just three events to go — to clinch the team’s maiden ABB FIA Formula E Championshipby a mere two points in a thrilling bout of action within New York City.

Audi will be hoping that they can keep the momentum going throughout the 2018/18 season, when they bring their second-generation Formula E car the Audi e-tron FE05 onto the track. Di Grassi and Abt will remain the German manufacturer’s drivers.

What’s next for Audi in the world of motorsport?

With Audi more than holding their own in both the WEC and Formula E, could we soon see the German car maker taking its first steps into Formula 1?

Such a scene seemed very unlikely as recently as 2015, especially as a spokesperson for Audi told BBC Sport: “The current situation is that Audi definitely has no intention to enter F1.”

However, there appears to have been a change in Audi’s feelings towards taking a spot on the F1 grid since then. This is because the German manufacturer stated that they weren’t ruling out entering the motorsport in time for the new engine regulations being introduced in 2021, and even participated in talks about the future of the F1’s engine rules during 2017.

Audi Motorsport chief Dieter Gass commented: “Like all other potential manufacturers, we were invited by the FIA and have discussed a possible participation. If we decide to participate in 2021, we have to decide soon.”

There’s been no firm decision made as yet though, so it’s a case of wait and see about whether Audi will be attempting to replicate their phenomenal feats in WEC and Formula E within F1 in the not-so-distant future.