While the factory program may have come to an end, the Audi R18 could continue in the hands of a privateer team next year, according to VW Group motorsport boss Wolfgang Durheimer.
In an interview with Autocar, Durheimer revealed there’s been interest from parties to run the cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship, but said it would require a well-financed and technically equipped operation to do so.
“We are very willing to co-operate with any team that has the expertise and budget to race them,” Durheimer told Autocar.
“There is interest, but it is more complex than the World Rally Championship situation – these cars are on a different level technologically to anything else racing today.
“They are not cars that a privateer can just operate.”
The news comes one month after Joest Racing manager director Ralf Juttner revealed to Sportscar365 they had looked into potentially running the R18, without its hybrid system and fitted with a customer gasoline-powered engine, in the LMP1 Privateer subclass.
Juttner and Audi Sport boss Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich both said at the time that the German manufacturer would not be able to continue technical support of the powertrain, which according to Durheimer’s statement, appears to have changed.
It’s unclear if any team other than Joest would be capable of running the diesel-powered hybrids, or what the cost would even be, given that no privateer has campaigned current-generation LMP1 hybrids.
Audi’s 2017-spec R18 was nearly complete when the board made the shock decision to cancel the program at the end of this year.
“Obviously it had not tested yet but it was very far in development and very far in getting it built,” Audi Head of LMP Stefan Dreyer told Sportscar365 in October. “I think it would have been the car to beat.”
The last Audi to be run in customer hands was the R10 TDI, which Team Kolles campaigned in 2009-10 with mixed results.