Audi on Monday made several major motorsport announcements.
The brand with the four rings confirmed it will exit the Formula E Championship at the end of the 2020/2021 season, leaving Porsche to represent the Volkswagen Group in the electric open-wheel series.
Instead, Audi will enter the Dakar Rally for the first time, using an electric SUV. It will be a bespoke SUV with a high-voltage battery and an internal-combustion engine serving as a range extender, the automaker said.
2020/2021 Audi E-Tron FE07 Formula E race car
Audi is making a multi-year commitment to the Dakar Rally, starting with the 2022 rally. The automaker said its aim is to use motorsport to improve the performance of its electric drive systems and batteries and transfer this knowledge into future road cars.
We've already seen this in Formula E where Audi's latest entry features an electric drive system that develops 335 horsepower yet weighs less than 77 pounds. The drive system also has an efficiency rating of 95%, and the efficiency of its motor-generator alone is 97%.
And while Audi has never competed in the Dakar Rally before, fellow VW Group brands Porsche and Volkswagen have experience to call on—especially VW which scored a hat track of wins between 2009 and 2011.
“We want to continue demonstrating the brand’s slogan ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ in international top-level motorsport in the future and develop innovative technologies for our road cars,” said Markus Duesmann, CEO of Audi. “The toughest rally in the world is the perfect stage for this.”
Audi also confirmed Monday it is preparing to enter the new LMDh (Le Mans Daytona hybrid) category for prototype racers announced back in January. LMDh was announced jointly by IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) and ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest), which sanctions the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the highlight of the World Endurance Championship. The rules are still being hammered out but LMDh could be introduced in the WEC and the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship by the 2022 season, essentially allowing a team to compete in races from both series with the same car.
Audi said it will also continue to investigate other motorsport arenas, though don't look for a new DTM entry. Audi in April said it will quit DTM after 2020.