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Audi Confirms LMP1 Exit At End of 2016 Season

Audi confirms termination of LMP1 program after 2016 season…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Months of rumors have been put to rest, with Audi confirming on Wednesday that the German manufacturer will pull the plug on its factory LMP1 program at the end of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship season.

Chairman of the Board of Management Rupert Stadler made the historic announcement, with Audi shifting its focus to Formula E instead.

“We’re going to contest the race for the future on electric power,” said Stadler. “As our production cars are becoming increasingly electric, our motorsport cars, as Audi’s technological spearheads, have to even more so.”

Audi’s withdrawal from endurance racing marks the end of an era, after an 18-year run in top-level prototype racing that’s delivered 13 wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, including the first diesel-powered car in 2006 and hybrid-powered LMP1 in 2012.

Out of a total of 185 races entered, Audi has won 106 times, along with scoring 80 pole positions and 94 fastest laps. The brand has won the FIA World Endurance Championship twice, and the American Le Mans Series nine times in a row.

“After 18 years in prototype racing that were exceptionally successful for Audi, it’s obviously extremely hard to leave,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich.

“Audi Sport Team Joest shaped the WEC during this period like no other team.

“I would like to express my thanks to our squad, to Reinhold Joest and his team, to the drivers, partners and sponsors for this extremely successful cooperation. It’s been a great time.”

Audi has increased its partnership with Team ABT Schaeffler Sport in the current Formula E season, and is working towards a full-factory program in the fully-electric single-seater series for the 2017/2018 season.

In addition, Audi will keep its DTM program, in which it won the teams’ and manufacturers’ championships this season. A decision on the future of Audi’s commitment in the FIA World Rallycross Championship has yet to be made.

This news brings the future of the LMP1 class into question, with only four full-season hybrid cars from two manufacturers likely for 2017.

News of Audi’s exit was initially expected and reported for 2018, and not at the end of this season.

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist focusing on European series for Sportscar365. Kilshaw was the founder of WorldSportsCar.co.uk and is a member of the Autosport Academy. Contact Jake

62 Comments

62 Comments

  1. Ha-ha

    October 26, 2016 at 7:15 am

    Ha-ha

  2. GR88

    October 26, 2016 at 7:15 am

    In a way it would have been pretty sad if they’d continued next year, with it publicly known they’d be out at the end of the season.

    A clean break should focus some minds with new regulations imminent, not that I think this will be a surprise to those at the top.

  3. Jessie

    October 26, 2016 at 7:19 am

    More bad news for LMP1 after Rebellion pulled out Is it not time to make LMP2 the top class ?

    • Jack

      October 26, 2016 at 10:03 am

      Well the speeds they will be going they won’t be far off

    • jake

      October 26, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      Dpi the new LMP1?

      • Bob

        October 27, 2016 at 4:55 pm

        God I hope not!!!

  4. David Chaste

    October 26, 2016 at 7:21 am

    The Aco need to revive LMP1 privateer teams. Rebellion would have more podium chances if they decided to come back for next year.

    • kev

      October 26, 2016 at 7:29 am

      No, they need to make LMP1 sustainable for factories. They need to homologate chassis for a few years with minimal changes to drastically cut aero R&D. They want all this awesome tech but at 1000hp levels, how is it relevant to the 120hp hybrids they’re putting out? Bring the power output down, costs come down some. Maybe look at cutting the lowest attended race for cost savings. Why even bother with Texas? There are things they can do, but the ACO does whatever they want.

      • GR88

        October 26, 2016 at 7:37 am

        Homologatng cars for a set period is a good idea. Maybe with a token system to allow more controlled development. Wouldcut costs and open opportunities to supply cars to customers or semi works teams.

      • Lubino

        October 26, 2016 at 7:48 am

        Toyota may still end up ……… The whole thing is a huge financial cost, and the impact it has Dieselgate affair. Two concern about automakers could not be financed.

    • Glenn Smith

      October 26, 2016 at 7:36 am

      The main problem is the cars are just too expensive, even for the factory teams. To get more teams back into LMP1 they need to ditch the Hybrid systems and go back to the sonic restrictors. I think if this happened you would see a couple more factory teams and private teams would be able to be closer to the factory teams than they are now.

      • NathanielCar

        October 26, 2016 at 7:43 am

        Hybrid technology is now well established. You can develop and run such a car on a fraction of the Audi & Porsche budgets. What should happen, an entrant needs to be competitive whether they run a 2mj system or 10mj.

      • Jason

        October 26, 2016 at 7:55 am

        Hence why someone like Ford makes a sensible decision and goes into GT!

        • Andy Flinn

          October 26, 2016 at 8:38 am

          Jason, Ford isn’t struggling with a $15 billion settlement for VW dieselgate. And that’s just the cost to clean up the mess in North America. Last year, I bought a turbocharged VW Golf Sportwagen (TSI) because my dealer wasn’t permitted to sell me a TDI version. It’s a great car.

          The decision to pull the plug probably has more to do with the scandal than a fundamental flaw in prototype (WEC) racing.

          • The Ghost of Buckshot Jones

            October 26, 2016 at 8:43 am

            Eh, while Dieselgate was the final nail in the coffin, I think anyone with any sense of realism (aka non ACO-fanboys) knew that the Audi program’s days were numbered once the Porsche P1 program got off the ground. With that now at the front, the Audi effort is superfluous, and it makes no sense to spend 350mm/year to race yourself while advertising a technology that’s about to cost your company $30 billion in fines.

  5. Iraqi Information Minister

    October 26, 2016 at 7:42 am

    Lies and mistruths. LMP1 Hybrid and Privateer will be stronger than ever in 2017. 2018 will see many new manufacturers join. There is nothing wrong here.

    • Juandefoldgit

      October 26, 2016 at 9:25 am

      Okay I will take the bait…explain how the class will be stronger in 2017 after losing Audi and Rebellion? Granted Toys might have a 3rd car but I am trying to figure out how Audi’s departure is gonna make the P1 class “stronger than ever” And which teams are you thinking might join the P1 fray in 2018

      • Andy Flinn

        October 26, 2016 at 11:49 am

        Juan, he’s (she’s?) joking.

      • guest

        October 26, 2016 at 5:01 pm

        The Iraqi PM I think is also trying to get an event in 2017 in Baghdad.

    • Jessie

      October 26, 2016 at 9:44 am

      Comical Ali Funny

  6. Steven

    October 26, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Very sad to see the program come to an end. LMP1 has just gotten out of control in costs sadly.

  7. FlyingLobster27

    October 26, 2016 at 7:58 am

    LM P1 is losing cars, and LM P2 is quasi-spec… I felt that prototype racing peaked in 2015, and sure, it’s not looking good. Next question: how long will Toyota run a P1 programme alongside the WRC for?

    As for Audi, well, nothing lasts forever. They leave with the unbelievable achievement of having at least one car classified on the podium at every single Le Mans 24 Hours they’ve been to, and a proud line of legendary cars driven by amazing crews, which really raised the bar in endurance racing.
    Auf Wiedersehen!

  8. JamieR

    October 26, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Really not a surprise is it? This has been coming since the VW scandal. Leena Gade’s departure after Le Mans was a big indication.

    I do agree that the spiralling costs, and the fact that these monster hybrids are not especially relevant to production cars, would signal the end of a programme. Ironically their huge success over the years with diesel power, and with diesel technology not held in in the high regard it was, Audi are almost the victims of their own success.

    So who’s next to join LMP1?

    Peugeot implied exponential costs were the main factor preventing a return.
    Nissan and Mazda are for the moment committed to DPI programmes.
    BMW have committed to GTE/LM in order to be represented on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Enticing a manufacturer from Formula E might be the way forward?

    And what of the Audi drivers? One or two might be involved in the Porsche shake-up, whilst the likes of Fassler might do Le Mans for Corvette now? Di Grassi and one of the others to become the Formula E works drivers?

    • The Ghost of Buckshot Jones

      October 26, 2016 at 8:40 am

      Seriously, with Gade gone and Porsche’s technical chief bailing out as well, the only surprise is that they didn’t announce it sooner. I’d have figured right after Le Mans. Guess they decided to pull a Nissan instead.

      • JM

        October 26, 2016 at 6:44 pm

        If I recall correctly, Gade was packed off to Bentley before LeMans (handled by the incomparable Brad Kettler), and I don’t believe it was a promotion (i.e. “to look over its [Bentley] customer teams competing worldwide).

  9. Axl Rose ate my Buick

    October 26, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Fuck Formula E!

  10. ops30

    October 26, 2016 at 8:55 am

    Good indication of why IMSA hasn’t tried to build their P class around high $ factory teams, but has instead build a more sustainable base with the DPI platform and integration with the ACO’s LMP2 model.

    I think IMSA watched what happened to the ALMS back in 2009 when Audi and Porsche pulled out and it was 2 prototypes racing each other all season.

    Here’s hoping the WEC figures something out…

    • Troll Me

      October 26, 2016 at 9:13 am

      Grand-Am saw that, not IMSA.

      • Andy Flinn

        October 26, 2016 at 11:56 am

        Actually, Troll Me, IMSA saw that way back in 1992. I’ll post a direct quote (ironically) by Dan Gurney from On Track magazine after Nissan and Mazda bailed from IMSA GTP that year.

        Stay tuned….

        • Andy Flinn

          October 26, 2016 at 8:58 pm

          Here’s the quote:

          “(The withdrawal of Nissan, Mazda and others) creates a legitimate situation that needs to be dealt with. It also is symptomatic of an overall situation which is these cars cost so much money, even more than Indy cars.” — Dan Gurney, talking about the state ofIMSA GTP in On Track Magazine, December 11, 1992.

          I say this quote is ironic because the following year (1993) Dan Gurney’s AAR Toyota Eagle GTPs thoroughly dominated the final year of IMSA GTP against relatively weak factory competition.

          At least IMSA GTP lasted through 1993, unlike the WSC in Europe.

          Troll Me, hopefully history doesn’t repeat itself. That would be nice for a change.

  11. Initial D

    October 26, 2016 at 9:51 am

    What about the future Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler, Benoit Treluyer ?

    • Jason

      October 26, 2016 at 10:03 am

      I wonder if Audi’s GT3 car will peak this year and it goes downhill from here next year because LMP3 is really taking a bite out of GT3 racing. The national GT series are suffering in Europe as teams find LMP3 to be a big attraction. Blancpain and VLN will be fine still but the rest will fade away I think in the next year or so.

      The Audi LMP pullout will shake things up. Not a bad thing I think. Perhaps the ACO will or have actually consider the future of LMP1 now. Perhaps they should hold off the new 2018 regs implementation for the time being. Continue what they have now through 18 and start a new in 2019.

    • Jason

      October 26, 2016 at 10:05 am

      They will find something which will trickle down in some young pro driver who will probably find their career over due to lack of rides

      • morningview66

        October 26, 2016 at 10:50 am

        The whole thing is a shame for some of the young single-seater drivers that have been flocking to the WEC after being priced out of F1.

        Now there are less drives for these guys to aim for. Their best bet is to aim for a factory GTE drive which seems to be on the up.

        We could end up with an even more competitive GTE class over the coming years. Maybe that should be the top class in the WEC.

        A return of GT1 maybe 😉

    • FlyingLobster27

      October 26, 2016 at 10:32 am

      Lotterer has the speed to do something big. Which means that, unfortunately, he might end up in the DTM if Audi holds on to him. Otherwise, he might go back to Super Formula and/or Super GT. Tréluyer was also working in Japan before the WEC was formed. One or both might be called up by Toyota if a third car is confirmed (Lotterer used to drive for Lexus).
      Fässler’s been doing stuff for Corvette, so maybe he’ll join them full-time, replacing an older driver like Magnussen.

    • Mark - Toronto

      October 26, 2016 at 1:10 pm

      Spare a thought also for those behind the scenes at Team Joest. It brings an end to many years at this level of the sport for them. Hopefully they pop up elsewhere.

    • JM

      October 26, 2016 at 6:48 pm

      Plenty of seats available in GT3/GTD. Possibly Mike Shank is already on the phone.

  12. Tim

    October 26, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Well I can only imagine that the scandal had something to do with it a bit. But with Porsche supposedly going through a big driver switch I would assume that some of these drivers will be wearing Porsche firesuits next year with a 3rd Porsche LMP1

  13. jiendsjk

    October 26, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Hahahahahahaa! I’m really happy that this is happening. You should all see the comments on r/WEC. The ACO shills and lemmings are doing damage control.

    • NathanielCar

      October 26, 2016 at 12:32 pm

      Given your immature language, I’m guessing fans are taking a calm, considered approach, in contrast to your sensationalist trolling.

  14. Rohan

    October 26, 2016 at 10:49 am

    If DieselGate, still fresh in the rearview mirror, running a car with diesel tech is a painful reminder for VAG. I just hope that ACO and FIA and the teams now see that they have to act fast to create a more sustainable LMP1 format. The ridiculous amounts of money being spent by Porsche are not sustainable and even Toyota may end up leaving. Perhaps a customer Hybrid system might be the answer to help entice Privateers to give it one more go as long as they are competitive. I don’t have the answers; I sure hope somebody does as I love watching the LMP1 monsters race.

  15. N8

    October 26, 2016 at 11:12 am

    What am I missing about Formula E? Is it insanely cheap to run compared to other options, because it’s bad to the point of unwatchable for me.

    • NASCAR/DPs Suck

      October 26, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      Nothing, it is unwatchable. Good drivers competing in terrible cars on boring street circuits. Just terrible.

    • Pete Zuhreeyuh

      October 26, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      Technology. All the manufacturers involved want to develop electric powerplants as that’s where they perceive the future will lie with road cars.

      I’m all for progress, but I too think the Formula E races are unwatchable and I love open wheel racing.

      • N8

        October 27, 2016 at 10:18 am

        Honestly, the reality of what FE is doesn’t reflect that well on the “technology” that’s supposedly on display there. An E-Golf Cup race would be more interesting to me.

    • rennsport4.4tV8

      October 26, 2016 at 7:35 pm

      I don’t see the appeal in FE from an enthusiast standpoint.

  16. NorthSask

    October 26, 2016 at 11:16 am

    FE seems like a giant step down. It certainly has it’s niche, but it’s scope is tiny compared to even the WEC and it’s ability to expand is dramatically limited by what it is. However, I suppose the politics of it make it appealing to those facing emissions scandals…

  17. Jason

    October 26, 2016 at 11:28 am

    This makes me want to watch a replay of the 2013 Sebring 12 hours. Audi’s last ALMS race

  18. CDW

    October 26, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Maybe I’m going Oliver Stone, but a Porsche DPi program with Penske perhaps? JPM did test an LMP1 car last year, and the Captain had a very successful partnership in ALMS…..

    • jake

      October 26, 2016 at 12:22 pm

      I’ll put money on that. I will also put money on dpi running in lmp1. The only way they can bring in manufacturers to go for overall without breaking the bank. I hope that they still allow for actual prototype (delta wing, Electric, Hydrogen…)

      • guest

        October 26, 2016 at 6:02 pm

        I don’t know how many times this can be pointed out today, how can a 600hp prototype run with 1000hp prototypes?

  19. klm

    October 26, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    AT long last the decades of humilation spreads by the piech monster are terminated!

    • JamieR

      October 26, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      I would agree with that, as it would allow Caddy/Mazda/Nissan in quickly. However there is no way the ACO would allow an IMSA invention to outperform their own.

      I can see Hydrogen being pushed a little more now.

      • Jake

        October 26, 2016 at 2:39 pm

        I think they both care more about money and I think that it was a combined invention. Imsa could make it happen, aco will be rewarded by more manufacturer involvement. I wouldn’t be surprised if in ten year time the WEC and IMSA join at premier events including Daytona Sebring and/or Watkins glen.

  20. Glexing

    October 26, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    The reasons Audi left have something to with diesel-gate yes but more centrally it’s the cost of LMP1 and the WEC itself that is the crux of the problem.

    The WEC has 1/1000th the visibility of Formula One yet P1 teams spend F1-size budgets. It makes no sense and is clearly unsustainable.

    Hate to say it but a large measure of responsibility for the rising cost of prototype racing (aside from the greed of the ACO) has been generated by Audi itself.

    They made the bed that everyone now lies in. Too bad the bed’s going to be empty soon.

    • N8

      October 26, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      If the idea is to actually develop a technology and push it as far as it can be pushed, then it does make sense. These are R&D budgets. F1 is purely a marketing expense for the sake of exposure and entertainment. Which does LMP1 want to be?

      • klm

        October 27, 2016 at 9:35 pm

        most sportscar fans choose to forget that without the “small category” GTE(pro and am) and LMP2 .the felds will be thiner .THE LMP1 alone is not enough for the aco to be a long term future.

        F1 GOT 24 HYBRIDS CAR. FACT

        LMP1 4

        for the so call “simplicity” of f1
        http://www.racecar-engineering.com/cars/mercedes-w07-hybrid/

  21. Olly

    October 26, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    I know it way too early to ask or even imagine, but do you guys think Audi will switch to DPi along with FE?

    • guest

      October 26, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      I bet not unless someone like ESM will step up and request to them specifically, splitting the cost of the bodywork development or paying for it.

  22. Anthony Blair Thomas

    October 28, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    I only have this to say –

    Myopia is big over here. People mentioned the sexy which is diesel issue that VW has. I refuse to call it “gate” cause seeming anytime something happens that’s shrouded in secrecy gets called insert “gate” which is lazy and Americans are lazy so…

    What happen was not just VW cheating and now the sizable fine they have to pay, but it’s also plummeting US car sales. VW’s diesel problem is very much a public relationship nightmare scenario. VAG had to start putting money on the hood of it’s products. Great for the consumer looking for a discount but not good for resale value for one thing.

    2016 budgets were baked already so no matter what happen during 2016, all programs would keep running. Now the reality of those fines is coming home like chickens to the coup. Since Audi has accomplished much (given all the accolades given to them by various outlets), the feel this time is as good as any to pull the plug.

    As for the crews and drivers, they’ll get assigned to other positions, other series, some will be allowed to “retire early” and various other ambassador duties. Of course more than a few will opt to become free agents.

    With Porsche coming back to GTLM, Tandy and Bamber looking to replace at least one crew if not split up into both cars; my guess that some will find homes there.

    The others will get spread to the GT3 program. But if Audi gets it’s wish and DTM drop down from it’s current seven cars per manufacturer, more jobs will be lost there.

    That’s one of the reasons besides recent performance why Timo Scheider wasn’t resigned by Audi’s DTM program.

    All in all, it’s not that sad of a day. Programs like this come and go all the time.

    Be happy you got 17-18 years which defiantly improved Audi’s image problem from the late 1970’s-early ’90’s program.

    • klm

      October 28, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      i agree

  23. Anthony Blair Thomas

    October 28, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    definitely ooops

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