Audi’s factory Le Mans Prototype effort dominated endurance sportscar racing for years—well, until Volkswagen Group sister-brand Porsche entered the mix and the diesel became a four-letter word. Now company insiders suggest that Audi could be dropping their Le Mans program entirely after 2017.
Sources close to Audi chairman Rupert Stadler told Autocar that Audi has decided to end its top-class LMP1 effort in the World Endurance Championship after 2017.
Audi’s motorsport programs–including that flagship WEC LMP1—have already been scaled back in the wake of the Volkswagen Group’s costly Dieselgate scandal, most notably in their decision not to run third cars at Le Mans this year. Pitting Audi against Porsche no longer makes financial sense, with budgets over $219 million for each marque’s program.
With so much focus on the World Endurance Championship’s most famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race, it’s impossible for the two brands to share the spotlight. One insider put the we-can’t-win attitude simply to Autocar:
Whatever way it turns out, one of our brands is deemed to lose.
If these rumors sound familiar, it’s because they usually come attached to the thought of an Audi Formula One effort. It’s obvious that Audi doesn’t have the funding for that now, and that Volkswagen has to cover all the fallout from Dieselgate somehow.
Volkswagen needs to fund the development of up to 25 new electric cars by 2025 along with a shift away from reliance on diesel, and thus, Volkswagen Motorsport head Wolfgang Durheimer has been ordered to streamline all of the VW brands’ racing programs, per Autocar. The Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters program is also rumored to be facing cuts as well.
With new regulations coming in 2018 for the World Endurance Championship, Volkswagen also has to factor in development costs of what would likely be a new engine and hybrid system for Audi.
Audi will not be pulling out of all motorsport, however. It is expected to continue its GT3, GT4 and Formula E efforts.
Audi declined to comment to Autocar on the rumors. Jalopnik also reached out to an LMP1 program contact, and will update this story if we receive a response.
UPDATE: In response to our inquiry about the LMP1 program’s future, a team representative explained that Audi’s Board of Management decides on the motorsport programs for the next year each fall. That decision has not been made yet for 2017, but will happen soon.