Audi Motorsport boss Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich has downplayed rumors that Audi would stop its LMP1 program at the end of 2017, amid reports from German media indicating the manufacturer’s imminent exit from the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Auto Motor und Sport reported this week that a number of factors, including VW’s emissions scandal, a dwindling demand for diesel production cars and a higher scrutiny on motorsports budgets, could force the German manufacturer to end its factory involvement.
“I hope they’re wrong,” Ullrich told media Saturday at Fuji Speedway, site of this weekend’s WEC race.
Ullrich said a decision on the program’s future has not yet been taken.
“We have seen so many press rumors during the last years,” he said. “The good thing is that in most of the cases, the negative ones didn’t occur. I’m an old optimist and I’m looking forward to the future.
“We are going the standard way of how we organize our race program, which is always in the autumn of the year.
“The meeting of the boards, where normally the motorsport programs are decided, has not taken place yet. So there’s been nothing to decide and it’s going to come.”
Audi Head of LMP Stefan Dreyer told Sportscar365: “This is not new; it’s been like this every year.
“Obviously the situation now is more difficult than in the past, but we have to wait. Before it’s not official we go 100 percent forward and we’re working really hard on the 2017 car.”
Ullrich said plans are still moving ahead on the design its 2018 car, while they continue to discuss the FIA and ACO’s new set of LMP1 regulations, which will see an additional 10 MJ hybrid subclass and up to three hybrid systems allowed on each car.
“We’re working on the project we need to be competitive in the future and the programs we plan to go,” he said.
“We are working, like everybody… to get the rulebook together so it’s fair to all the different technical concept.
“If you look at today’s qualifying, I think it’s one of the best proof that the basic rulebook is a really good one. But there are many details that we all together need to work on.
“For sure it’s one of our targets to work on things that we think that are not in our favor [that] should be corrected.”
While the road car industry has been moving towards electric technology, Ullrich said he still sees a place for diesel, which Audi has pioneered in sports car racing since the launch of the R10 TDI in 2006.
“We think that the diesel engine is still one of the most efficient combustion engines that you can get,” he said. “They can be as well very clean. It’s just a question of developing it.
“The efficiency of the diesel engine is the best one of the combustion engine you can get, and as long as this is a key factor, and efficiency is always important for emissions in general, we think that the diesel in racing is still a good solution.”
Vincent Wouters contributed to this report