Joest Racing could remain in the FIA World Endurance Championship, with managing director Ralf Juttner having not ruled out a LMP1 non-hybrid solution, potentially even with an incarnation of next year’s stillborn Audi R18 chassis.
Juttner, who has spent more than half of his 32-year motorsports career linked with Audi’s factory prototype program, is working to keep the Reinhold Joest-owned team afloat following the German manufacturer’s sudden departure from top-level prototype competition
“Of course it’s a great team; it’s one of the best in the world,” Juttner told Sportscar365. “We are now facing the difficult task of finding something short-term.
“We are aware that even without the short time frame, a program like the one we had with Audi for the last 18 years is not on the horizon at the moment.
“That is just possible in LMP1 and Formula One, which is not a real alternative for us.
“Everything else is smaller things. We probably need to look into smaller programs but maybe more two or three. But it will be a tough challenge.
“When you get that message at the end of October with the news, it’s very late. We only started last week to really look at everything.”
One of the early options that Juttner has explored is putting together a LMP1 non-hybrid program, potentially as a stop-gap measure to keep as much as its 45 full-time staff employed.
He’s even gone as far to mention the possibility of utilizing Audi’s 2017-spec R18 as a base, with its hybrid and diesel combustion engine stripped out and replaced with a customer gasoline powerplant.
The car, which goes by the internal name of “RP7”, is understood to have been nearly completed prior to the decision by the Audi board to pull the plug on its factory LMP1 program at the end of the season.
“If there would be a proper solution to achieve that, it would be something that could be thought about,” Juttner told Sportscar365. “But you’d need money to run them.
“Most likely, you would not run it with that engine because then you would need too much assistance from Audi Sport, which has now been canceled. The same is true for the hybrid.
“The RP6 is the car we have now and the RP7 is nearly ready. You can take the hybrid system and engine out.
“We are [looking at it] but this car is built around the fuel cell of a diesel. So you cannot just pump 20 more liters in. It’s not so easy.
“There are reasonable things you think about and completely stupid things you come up with. We’ll see what comes to life in the end, something hopefully.”
Juttner said putting together a LMP1 non-hybrid program for next year would be an extremely tall order, given the timing, and admits it could be more of a potential project for 2018.
“If we want to do something it should be something proper,” he said. “I don’t think all of the programs that have been running in that category have been proper.
“I don’t want to do the same sh** just with clear desperation. Fortunately we are an old, well-situated company.”
While having been intrinsically linked with Audi for the last 18 years, Joest has had a storied past with other manufacturers, namely Porsche, in the 1990s, when it claimed back-to-back wins at Le Mans with the TWR Porsche WSC-95.
“We had off-years, like ’97 when we had no income but we had the WSC, which we won Le Mans in 1996 with,” Juttner said.
“[The car] was given to us by Porsche and we took our own money, developed the car further, did a lot of tire testing with Goodyear and took it to Le Mans.
“That was, at least for some of the guys, to keep the core guys. Then the Audi program came.
“Unfortunately we don’t have something like that now.”
With its goal of landing a new manufacturer-backed effort, Juttner said they they are exploring all options in the motorsports world, including IMSA’s new DPi platform, although he stressed it’s early days.
“I liked racing in America a lot,” he said. “It was a few years ago, I have to admit. I loved it, Mr. Joest loved it.
“If there is a proper program we could come up with, it’s not impossible. We are looking there as well but we have just started.”