Audi is revising its motorsports program, plotting a return to Le Mans and entering for the first time in 2022 “one of the greatest challenges in motorsport,” the Dakar Rally.
“The brand with the four rings will be competing in the famous Dakar Rally for the first time in 2022 with an innovative prototype,” Audi Sport announced in a brief news release.
Audi will enter the desert rally with an electric-powered prototype vehicle.
“The alternative drive concept combines an electric drivetrain with a high-voltage battery and a highly efficient energy converter for the first time,” the company said. “Cross-country rallying will be the spearhead of the factory motorsport commitment in the future.”
Audi said it has ended “factory involvement” in the Formula E racing series for electric vehicles, but will offer its powertrain to customer teams competing in that series.
“A multifaceted commitment to motorsport is and will remain an integral part of Audi’s strategy,” said Markus Duesmann, Audi AG chairman.“We want to continue demonstrating the brand’s slogan ‘Vorsprung durch Technik‘ in international top-level motorsport in the future and develop innovative technologies for our road cars. The toughest rally in the world is the perfect stage for this.”
“After many international successes in a wide range of categories, Audi is thus returning to rallying, which marked the beginning of the brand’s successful history in motorsport,” the company added. “From 1981, the Audi quattro revolutionized rallying. Today, permanent four-wheel drive is a standard, not only for rally cars. It also guarantees maximum safety in the sportiest Audi production models, and now also electrically in the e-tron models.
“Audi is the first car manufacturer that has committed to develop a viable alternative drive concept for the Dakar Rally, making it a pioneer in motorsport once again. In 2012, Audi achieved the first victory of a hybrid racing car in the Le Mans 24 Hours. The Audi R18 e-tron quattro remained unbeaten in the world’s most important endurance race three times in a row.”
“Customer racing remains the second major pillar in Audi AG’s future motorsport program,” the company continued. “Audi Sport customer racing will continue to offer its customers a comprehensive model portfolio, as well as intensive service for worldwide racing. In addition, the program includes competing with the Audi R8 LMS in major endurance races like the Nürburgring 24 Hours and in international racing series such as the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
“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,” added Julius Seebach, managing director of Audi Sport GmbH. “The most important message for our fans is that motorsport will continue to play an important role at Audi.”
Audi launched its Audi Sport factory racing program in 1978 and since then has posted multiple victories at Le Mans and won the German Touring Car Championship 12 times.