Audi is “intensively preparing” for a return to top-level prototype racing in the LMDh formula after its factory team’s exit from the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship at the end of the 2021 season.
Audi confirmed on Monday that it will end its Formula E involvement after seven seasons to start preparing for a LMDh project and a factory assault on the Dakar Rally in 2022.
Julius Seebach, who is taking over from Dieter Gass as Audi’s Head of Motorsport, explained that sports car racing remains a key aspect of the company’s future racing activities within its wider aim of pursuing sustainable technologies.
The LMDh formula that Audi is set to enter requires cars to run with a spec hybrid system contributing to a 500 kW total power output.
The category, jointly developed by IMSA and the ACO, will be able to compete in both the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship as part of the convergence agreement between the two major sports car racing sanctioning bodies.
“We are evaluating other possible fields of activity for us in international motorsport,” said Seebach.
“In doing so, we have our customers’ wishes in mind as much as the company’s future strategy, which is clearly focused on electrification and carbon-neutral mobility.
“This is why we are intensively preparing to enter the new sports prototype category LMDh with its highlight races, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours.
“The most important message for our fans is that motorsport will continue to play an important role at Audi.”
Audi’s factory Formula E team principal Allan McNish, a two-time winner with the manufacturer in LMP1, believes LMDh is the “right formula” for it to pursue next.
Audi withdrew from LMP1 at the end of the 2016 WEC season to focus on its commitment to Formula E as a factory entrant.
It first joined the electric single-seater series in 2014 providing technical and operational support to the Abt Sportsline squad.
During its time in the top prototype class, Audi won Le Mans outright on 13 occasions and claimed back-to-back WEC manufacturers’ titles in 2012-13.
“Personally I believe that it’s the right format and formula for the next period, going forward,” said McNish.
“It creates a platform where you can have the same car racing worldwide. The U.S as we know, as a huge market, it’s a big market for it. It’s a big market for pretty much all the car manufacturers.
“But Le Mans is still also a key race in the world in motorsport, never mind just in sports car racing.
“I believe the platform is the right platform to go forward and very pleased with IMSA and ACO call on the first point in the regulations. I stated I was very pleased that the two parties had actually joined together with a global multi-sport view of sports cars.”
Earlier this year Audi’s Head of Customer Racing, Chris Reinke, told Sportscar365 that LMDh “ticks a lot of boxes” for the company.
Several marques have expressed interest in the category, which will compete alongside the ACO’s Le Mans Hypercars, but none have made as strong a declaration as Audi.
It’s understood that Porsche has until the end of November to make a decision on whether it commits to LMDh.
Sam Smith contributed to this report