AUDI OUT OF LE MANS: Image: Audi Motorsport
4x4, Audi, electric cars, Motoring News, motorsport

End of a racing era for Audi sports cars

  • Audi to close its sports-car programme
  • 18 years and 106 wins from 186 races
  • Tech transfer from race cars to roads
AUDI OUT OF LE MANS: Image: Audi Motorsport
AUDI OUT OF LE MANS:  An Audi R18 in action at the 2016 WEC race in Shanghai. Image: Audi Motorsport

INGOLSTADT, Germany – Audi is ending an era. On Saturday, November 19, not only the current season of the FIA World Endurance championship (WEC) will end in Bahrain but also Audi will end its Le Mans sports prototype programme after 18 years.

Audi’s sports prototypes from the Audi R8 through the R10 TDIm, R15 TDI to the R18, the automaker says, “have shaped an entire racing era, symbols of the technical progress achieved by the four-ring brand”.

AUDI OUT OF LE MANS: Image: Audi Motorsport
WOLFGANG ULLRICH:  “We have shaped an entire racing era.” Image: Audi Motorsport

Head of Audi Motorsport, Wolfgang Ullrich, told The Corner through a media release: “The event in Bahrain will be a very emotional farewell.”

Ullrich has been in charge of Audi motorsport since the end of 1993, the automaker recalled, and shaped the brand’s sports-car commitment.

In 1999 the LMP race cars competed in the Sebring 12 Hours for the first time, to date having clinched nine titles in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), three in various European Le Mans series, plus two Drivers’ and two Manufacturers’ World championship titles in the FIA WEC.

106 winners’ trophies are displayed in Audi’s showcases, 13 for Le Mans 24 Hours wins.

AUDI OUT OF LE MANS: Image: Audi Motorsport
AUDI OUT OF LE MANS: Image: Audi Motorsport

Ullrich said: “To this day the various rally models of the Audi quattro, with which everything began in 1981, have kept a special place in the hearts of the audience.

“I’m sure the sports cars, esteemed by a worldwide fan community, will continue to define the historic image of our brand for a long time.”

In addition to the emotional value being associated with the sports cars from Ingolstadt, Neckarsulm and Neuburg an der Donau, Audi says, the LMP race cars epitomise pure technology and set many milestones of Audi automobile development. Such as:

2001 – TFSI petrol direct injection debut in the Audi R8, the principle subsequently helping to reduce emissions from millions of cars in road traffic.

AUDI OUT OF LE MANS: Image: Audi Motorsport
AUDI OUT OF LE MANS: An Audi R18 e-tron quattro wins the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours with drivers Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer. Image: Audi Motorsport

2006 – Audi made history by clinching its first TDI (turbodiesel) win at Le Mans.

2012 – An Audi R18 e-tron quattro was the first hybrid sports-car to win the Le Mans 24 Hours. Today (2016) the current Audi R18 uses almost half the fuel burned by the Audi R10 TDI 10 years earlier yet was faster.

Ullrich asserted: “This is pure efficiency.”

READ MORE Audi features on Carman’s Corner

Safety innovations such as tyre-pressure control, the Audi Matrix diode headlights an Audi Laser Light complement the long list of technology transfers between motorsport and production – in both directions.

The close linking of these two fields, Audi adds, would be a key aspect in future activities…

“Audi is realigning its motorsport strategy,” the company said, “beginning in 2017 with involvement in the first all-electric racing series, the FIA Formula E championship, with a factory-backed commitment.

“This programme perfectly fits our business decision to offer new battery-electric automobiles year by year, starting in 2018.”

THREE DAYS IN BAHRAIN

In Bahrain the fastest, most efficient and most innovative Audi sports cars yet will tackle their last competition. There will be practice sessions on the desert circuit on Thursday, November 17 and Friday November 18 and the Six Hours of Bahrain will start on the afternoon of Saturday November 19 with the race continuing past sunset..

For Audi, the finale will be about clinching its final trophies in a sports-car race.

Points standings after eight of nine rounds

Drivers
1 Jani/Lieb/Dumas (Porsche) 152
2 Conway/Kobayashi/Sarrazin (Toyota) 135
3 Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (Audi) 121.5
4 Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (Porsche) 119.5
5 Fässler/Lotterer (Audi) 86
6 Imperatori/Kraihamer/Tuscher (Rebellion) 60.5
7 Tréluyer (Audi) 52

Manufacturers
1 Porsche 301
2 Audi 222
3 Toyota 207

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