Audi will cease to compete in the 2009 American Le Mans Series despite winning every LMP1 championship since 2000 with their R8 racer and R10 TDI racers. The company claims they'll instead focus on European racing.
This may be an exciting development for any of the other racing teams that actually want to win the LMP1 championship, but it's a blow to the racing series and a seemingly backward step for a company that has used its victories to sell cars, as it acknowledges in the press release they sent out announcing this:
Since the 2000 season Audi has won the LMP1 title nine-times in succession in this high-calibre sportscar championship. Our brand dominated proceedings last season by taking seven wins in eleven races. TDI in racing supported the market launch of Audi TDI technology in the USA perfectly.
So why did this happen? Audi doesn't hand over many details in their press release but there are at least three good possibilities.
The obvious issue could be that the Carpocalypse has claimed another victim and the company doesn't find the racing series fiscally responsible. Since Audi's parent company, Volkswagen AG by Porsche, is doing well we find a purely financial motive to be somewhat unlikely unless sponsorship concerns are an issue but, given they're the champs and Shell is a main sponsor, we're dubious.
It's also possible the ALMS' attempts to saddle the Audi team with restrictions, an effort to make the series more competitive, has scared off the team. Audi is going to debut the new Audi R15 TDI racer at the ALMS Twelve Hours Of Sebring, the first and last event for the new vehicle in America. Perhaps they want to quit while they're ahead.
The final possibility is Audi, in their judgment, decided participation in ALMS, despite their successes, didn't equate to sales. Audi did see an increase between 2006 and 2007 of 3.8% in North America in a difficult market so there's an easy counter-argument.
Audi concentrates on European motorsport
* Programmes in the DTM, at Le Mans and in customer sport
* No activities in the 2009 American Le Mans Series
Ingolstadt – Audi concentrates its motorsport programmes for the 2009 season on the new R15 TDI sport prototype for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the re-worked racing touring car A4 DTM and the newly developed R8 LMS for customer use in the GT3 class. Audi will not be represented by its factory team Audi Sport North America in the American Le Mans Series in 2009.
As a result of its newly aligned motorsport programme Audi offers its motorsport customers a bespoke vehicle concept for the first time: Audi Sport developed the new R8 LMS specifically to suit the user-friendly and cost-effective requirements in the production-based GT3 class in international motorsport. The powerful 500 hp plus race car based on the Audi R8 is due to be delivered in order to prove itself on track throughout the 2009 season.
The American Le Mans Series involvement will not be continued. Audi entered the American Le Mans Series in the year 2000 and has been instrumental in building up this championship ever since. The championship developed to become one of the most fascinating motorsport series within a few years, which offered and still offers the ever increasing fan community exciting motorsport. The ALMS is also recognised internationally and is regarded as the world’s best sportscar championship. "The decision to withdraw was a very difficult one also for these reasons. Furthermore, with the Champion racing team we also had a partner that operates at the highest level. The extraordinary dedication and precision of Team Champion was the key to Audi’s victories over the last few years in America. We achieved an unprecedented winning series together. Since the 2000 season Audi has won the LMP1 title nine-times in succession in this high-calibre sportscar championship. Our brand dominated proceedings last season by taking seven wins in eleven races. TDI in racing supported the market launch of Audi TDI technology in the USA perfectly," says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich positively of the AUDI AG involvement in the ALMS.
Even though AUDI AG concentrates its factory involvement at European venues throughout the 2009 season in these economically tough times, the American motorsport friends will be treated to a premiere: The completely newly developed Audi R15 TDI sports prototype should make its debut on 21 March 2009 during the 12-hour race at Sebring, Florida (USA). This international sportscar classic, which should be contested by Audi Sport Team Joest, is traditionally regarded as excellent preparation and final test-race for the 24 Hours of Le Mans (France). At the same time, the race at Sebring with its special demands made of man and machine guarantees excellent motorsport.
[Source: Audi, Photos: Robin Thompson for Audi of America]