Audi is preparing to return to top-tier sportscar racing with plans mooted for the German manufacturer to race at the Le Mans 24 Hour with a new LMDh programme.
The announcement comes as Audi confirms it will pull its involvement in Formula E at the end of next season.
Audi says its revamped motorsport strategy is designed to improve its sustainable technologies, with programmes in LMDh and Dakar scoring favour over Formula E.
Thus, Audi will begin preparations for an LMDh assault and a factory team for the Dakar Rally in 2022.
IMSA and ACO have jointly developed the LMDh class. Manufacturers entered in the category will be allowed to compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech Championship and WEC races, including both blue ribband events: the Daytona 24 Hour and Le Mans 24 Hour.
Earlier this year, Audi confirmed it would withdraw its factory support from the DTM. It has also been absent from top-flight endurance racing since it departed WEC in 2016 in the wake of ‘Dieselgate’.
During its tenure in the endurance series, Audi won Le Mans 13 times and consecutive WEC titles in 2012-13.
Audi’s Formula E team principal Allan McNish confirmed the news today at the pre-season test in Valencia.
“Personally, I believe that [LMDh] is 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.”
“We are evaluating other possible fields of activity for us in international motorsport,” added Julius Seebach, Audi’s new Head of Motorsport.
“In doing so, we have our customers’ wishes in mind as much as the company’s future strategy, which is 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.”
Audi has not put a date on its return, but the LMDh category is expected to be fully rolled out in 2023.