There is a lot of changes coming in the Audi concern.
The German car manufacturer made an announcement early this afternoon, that Dieter Gass will leave Audi, having worked for them since 2012. He previously worked at Audi from November 1994 until March 2001, where he was engineer and race engineer, including their sportscar programme. After just over 10 years in Formula 1 at Toyota and Lotus, he returned to Audi in 2012, where he worked as the right hand to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, and went on to replace him from 2017 onwards.
2017 was an important year in motorsport, with Audi Sport closing their Le Mans programme following 2016, and went for a works Formula E programme instead. Audi left the DTM series less than a month ago, with Rene Rast claiming his third title in four years.
Dieter Gass will be replaced by Julius Seebach, who will be new Head of Motorsport at Audi.
But those are not the only changes. Just a few minutes later, another press release was issued, announcing a Dakar programme. They will run a brand new prototype, with the electric driveline. The car will however also have a TFSI engine, for charging the batteries, since there won’t be power enough on the batteries, to do a several hundred long special stages through the desert, with plenty of wheelspin. Their goal is to be less and less dependant on the internal combustion engine, and to run longer and longer on the batteries.
But there were two very important facts, somewhat hidden in this press release.
Audi Sport will shut down their Formula E programme following the 2021 season. Abt was the team from the start, as privateer, before getting upgraded to full works team in 2017, where they won the title. But they haven’t been able to follow up on that success, and even losing out to their customer team, on more than one occasion. They do want to sell their electric driveline to other costumers in 2022 and onwards, if anybody wants to buy it.
They will put more focus on their customer sport, which is very successful in GT3 and GT4. The VW Audi group chose to close the TCR programme on the cars, with the four rings, following the 2019 season.
But there was another almost hidden footnote. Audi Sport is evaluating an LMDh programme, with the aim at selling those to costumers, who will be able to fight for both Daytona 24 hours wins in the USA, but also the 24 Hours of Le Mans in Europe. The LMDh category is the new thing in sports cars, being the new top-class alongside the Hypercar models. The basis of an LMDh car is a bought LMP2 chassis, and a standard hybrid car in all the cars. The car manufacturers will be allowed to put their own engine in, and their own aero package, but everything else has to be the same.
It’s a bit strange for them to put a potential Le Mans programme so far down a press release. This will probably be the biggest news for the majority of fans, who has been missing Audi at Le Mans. They do however have a long rally history, introducing their Quattro on gravel in 1981, going on to win on tarmac too later on.
The Dakar 2022 location hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s been moving around the world from the original Dakar route to Argentina and Peru, with Saudi Arabia being the location for the 2020 and 2021 races.