Audi to leave Formula E, race in Dakar and plan Le Mans return

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In the round-up: Audi has announced a change in priorities for its motorsport programme, following its decision last April to leave the DTM.

Audi to leave Formula E for other series

Audi has announced it will call time on its participation in Formula E at the end of the upcoming 2021 season. The team finished sixth in the standings last year with Lucas di Grassi, Daniel Abt and Rene Rast (the latter replacing Abt mid-season).

It will switch its focus to a new Dakar Rally programme from 2022 using a new “innovative prototype”. Audi intends to race an “alternative drive concept combines an electric drivetrain with a high-voltage battery and a highly efficient energy converter for the first time.”

At the same time Audi announced it is “intensively preparing” a car for the new LMDh regulations, and indicated it will compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours and Daytona 24 Hours.

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Comment of the day

A reserve driver actually getting to act as a reserve? Pietro Fittipaldi’s debut shows bold thinking from Haas:

So did Hulkenberg have his phone turned off or is Haas one of the few teams that actually use their third/reserve drivers instead of hiring someone from the outside?

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On this day in F1

  • 20 years ago today the FIA released the entry list for the coming F1 season which included new Sauber driver Kimi Raikkonen, a 21-year-old with just 23 races to his name

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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23 comments on “Audi to leave Formula E, race in Dakar and plan Le Mans return”

  1. Interesting how Audi are leaving FE. Perhaps its potential as a marketing platform is not as once thought? Perhaps the cheap publicity garnered is just that? Cheap. Perhaps I am being unfair, I dont follow FE.

    Going to race in Dakar is odd but interesting, and going back Le Mans seems sensible considering the convergence between LMH and LMDh. Perhaps they Audi feel that there is still much to be gained from hybrid technology? Or could it be that there is still a core demographic in the car market that want high performance ICE based vehicles, and by not exploiting the traditional motorsport platforms, perhaps Audi feel that they are missing out on this demographic? I’m just guessing here.

    1. I do get the sense that the FE audience is not really the core Audi customer @jaymenon10. Now that they “did their time” after the Dieselgate stuff, I guess they feel it is time to get serious again?

      Doing rallye with a big SUV would better match, I guess. And having Le Mans / endurance racing would enable them to market a high end car again too, since their last fast car is a while back.

      1. Yeah, and it’s not like VAG is leaving FE. Whatever lessons there are to be learned from the pure electric technologies is still there for them.
        I am quite disappointed in their decision to go with the branded LMP2 -route (sorry, LMDh, duh…) instead of competing in the bespoke top tier, but happy to see their return to endurance racing.

        ..maybe start bringing a Bentley LMH online , an anniversary is coming up in 3 years time…

        1. @uneedafinn2win When you compare the two, it’s not surprising most manufacturers said that the rule convergence meant that the Hypercar concept was obsolete before it even raced.

          An LMDh car can compete in both IMSA and WEC events (but a Hypercar can’t compete in IMSA events), so it is a more versatile concept, the performance balancing rules means it should be just as quick as a Hypercar, it’s substantially cheaper and easier to build and LMDh car and you don’t have to bother with producing a production derived car for the road.

          Unless you are in the sort of situation Toyota was, where they’d started building their Hypercar before the LMDh cars came into play, or you are really keen on the idea of producing a Halo car for your production range (Peugeot) or a niche manufacturer that produces limited production runs anyway (Glickenhaus), there’s no point in producing a Hypercar.

          The ACO has kind of had to do this to bail themselves out of the hole they got themselves into with the utter shambles that was the process of writing the rules for the Hypercar class – the reports are that it was an utter catastrophe from start to finish – but, in doing so, they’ve basically killed the class off.

      2. I often wonder, does FE even really have “an audience?”

        It’s relatively cheap to be in, it makes for nice PR blurbs to go along with selling electric road cars, but the actual sport seems to be getting zero traction anywhere in the world. It’s barely on TV, and when it is, it’s on small channels (Eurosport, pay-tv motorsport channels, etc). I watch the livestreams on YouTube and the viewers are in the thousands, not even reaching ten thousand more often than not for the races.

        The audience for FE does seem to be very small and restricted to the most dedicated of motorsport fans, perhaps some regional extra interest because of certain drivers (Belgium for Stoffel, for instance), but that would be about the extend of it. I doubt Audi got much out of it, in that sense.

        1. Formula E is motor racing for people who don’t like motor racing.

          1. LOL, StephenH! Also… CoTD

        2. I’d rather play video games myself than watch some reality-show video-game combination on some bad stream on Youtube (with frames skipping, glitches and breakups…). Fan power boost? DRS is harder and harder to swallow, but power boosts after crossing the magical field like in Mario Cart or whatever? Fans voting who will get extra power during the race (based on whatever, it’s probably mostly bots voting, hired by the drivers/teams)? Sure, I’ll watch FE. After all, why not to reward the brands for destroying the championships I’ve actually liked, where the real racing was (and real cars)…

        3. I don’t think they have an audience, it’s all PR. The ‘tracks’ are laughable and fan boost is a disgrace.

        4. @aiii when it has been broadcast on free to air services, Formula E races do seem to have picked up a reasonable number of viewers. Back in 2019, the BBC broadcasted the Hong Kong E-Prix and managed to pick up a peak audience of 355,000 viewers, with an average of about 229,000 viewers during the whole broadcast session.

          At least in the UK market, most motorsport series are now only available via pay TV, and their audience figures have also largely collapsed too. The MotoGP race that was on around the same time as the time of that Hong Kong E-Prix saw it’s audience peak at 249,000 and an average of 190,000; IndyCar, meanwhile, had one race a peak of just 25,000 and an average of 19,000, whilst even Sky’s more heavily promoted IndyCar races peaked at just 56,000.

          Basically, motorsport’s migration to pay TV has made motorsport as a whole a pretty niche sector in the UK at least, not just Formula E specifically.

          On a wider note, I am not sure that the VW Group is exactly getting that many viewers with the Dakar rally – rallying is already somewhat niche and the Dakar is even more so.

          As for sportscar racing, basically, you’re relying almost exclusively on the 24 Hours of Le Mans for coverage – the other 4 Hour and 6 Hour events are lucky to hit maybe 20,000 viewers at best. In fact, before Audi pulled out last time, Dr Ullrich was rather pointedly commenting that one of Audi’s concerns was the fact that the ACO was utterly reliant on the 24 Hours of Le Mans to get any coverage, with the other sprint races having negligible viewer interest.

          1. I’m not sure it viewership they’re after to be honest, its more of a marketing platform.

            I think the first thing we have to recognise is that ICE based vehicles are still very much the cash cow for these big car makers, this will remain the case for the short term, at least for the next 10 years. However, due to the need of presenting a more green image, its not seen as savoury to market these products. Hence the shift to focus on marketing performance vehicle brands, a category in which selling an ICE product isn’t deemed taboo, yet .

            So if you look at F1 for example, the grid will be made up of brands such as Merc-AMG (notice how the announced that AMG will be more prominent in coming years), Aston Martin (pure marketing), Alpine (once again, the F1 does very little for the Renault brand), Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Mclaren and whatever Red Bull do with the Honda PUs.

            All these brands aren’t exactly associated with your average daily driver. The average person who is looking to buy a car will probably go for the most economical option, one that fits all their criteria. This usually ends up being a Toyota Camry or equivalent, perhaps a Hyundai Tucson. Not vehicles that will have you jumping off the seat. However, there is a relatively large demographic that is willing to fork out the cash to drive an Audi S5 or BMW M5, and it is a highly competitive sector as well. If you ignore this demographic, you will lose out on sales.

            The point I’m trying to make is that, if you’re a big car company that isn’t visibly promoting the products that make you money, you should probably think about it.

        5. @aiii Formula E definitely has an audience. They just happen, for the most part, not to buy new road cars of any description…

  2. Pietro’s number is going to be what FIA gives to him, i.e., he doesn’t get to choose it himself.

    Re the BIC tweet: Respect for the recognition.

    1. @jerejj Pietro does get to pick his number. He just can’t pick a number someone else has, or has had in the last 2 years, or is retired from selection.

      1. @alianora-la-canta No, he doesn’t. Vandoorne didn’t get to pick a number for his one-off outing in Bahrain back in 2016, nor did Hartley for the 2017 US GP as at that time it wasn’t clear if he’d take part in more than just this one event. The same with Pietro, who’s going to take part in two events at max. The number will be Haas’ allocated reserve driver number handed out by FIA.

        1. @alianora-la-canta For this reason, Jack Aitken will use 40.

        2. @jerejj Jack Aitken used 89 and Pietro Fittipaldi used 51.

          Had the switch happened mid-weekend or too close to the weekend’s start, the procedure is indeed to use the team-reserved substitute number. Vandoorne wouldn’t have been allowed to pick his own number as he already had one (every driver’s race number is automatically reserved for two complete seasons after their last race, assuming their last race was after 2013). Toro Rosso didn’t get Hartley’s paperwork processed in time for Brendon to get to choose his race number.

          1. @alianora-la-canta Vandoorne didn’t have one back in 2016, and it should be for one complete season/year given that Hartley got to choose 28 even though Will Stevens had it in 2015, meaning that two full seasons (or years) hadn’t passed yet.

          2. @jerejj It is for two complete seasons, per Article 9.2 of the Sporting Regulations, and I have no idea why that rule got broken for Toro Rosso/Will Stevens.

  3. Lenny (@leonardodicappucino)
    1st December 2020, 9:05

    Re: CotD
    I think the thing more is that Haas have a reserve driver who actually has a super licence. Racing Point were going to use one of Merc’s reserve drivers but then they found out that Gutierrez’ super licence had expired and Vandoorne had FE commitments, so they turned to Hulkenberg, and as that worked out well, they continued working with him. As Fittipaldi isn’t racing anywhere else, and does have a super licence, the choice is fairly obvious for Haas. If you’re already paying someone to be reserve driver, might as well actually use them when you have the chance.

    1. There also might be a clause in Fittipaldi’s contract that he MUST get the drive if a seat opens up.

    2. I’d like to see them go do some real racing in IndyCar. Join possible newcomer Ferrari???

  4. Kimi will never change.
    Once the speediest, now still the most attractive driver of all.

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