Audi will aim for both Le Mans and Daytona victory from 2023!
Thursday April 29, 2021 by Julie Bouchard
Audi will return to the highest echelon of Endurance racing with prototypes equipped with a hybrid engine (gasoline-electric), from 2023. The announcement was made last November, but today the brand German gave more details on the project.
The car that will succeed the famous Audi R18 will thus make its return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring, in addition to making its debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona (Audi has never yet participated with its prototypes), as part of the LMDh regulations, in force in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar and in Le Mans.
“The LMDh category fits perfectly with our new vision of motorsport,” says Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH and Head of Motorsport at Audi. “The LMDh regulations allow us to field fascinating race cars in prestigious events around the world. In addition, costs will be controlled with the synergy put in place within the Volkswagen group to carry out our project, ”he adds.
The new prototype is being built in close collaboration with the brand’s sister company, Porsche. “A great strength of the Volkswagen group is the collaboration of brands in the development of road cars,” says Seebach. “We are now transferring this proven model to motorsport. However, our new prototype will be just as much a real Audi as the Audi RS e-tron GT1 which was launched recently and which was also developed on a platform shared with Porsche, ”he explains.
This new LMDh prototype is being created at Audi Sport, in parallel with the program that the brand will also launch in Rally Raid. “Of course, the Rallye-Raid team is under a greater time pressure, because there are only a little less than eight months left before our first participation in the Dakar Rally in January 2022” declares Andreas Roos, for his part, responsible for official commitments at Audi Sport. He adds: “But we also want to be perfectly ready for our return to Le Mans and to IMSA. This is why we are carrying out the two projects in parallel ”.
The chassis partner, believed to be Dallara with whom Audi has often worked, of the prototype program will be announced shortly. As for the engine concept, it has already been stopped. Once the car is assembled, an intensive test program will follow in 2022. The first race is scheduled for the 24 Hours of Daytona in January 2023.
LMDh regulations, which impose several one-design elements for maximum cost reduction, open the door to the participation of client teams in addition to the official commitment. Obviously, this is an option that interests the management of Audi Sport: « With the LMDh project, we will continue the philosophy of our early years in prototypes » says Andreas Roos. “The Audi R8 was not only the most successful prototype of its time from 2000 to 2006, with 63 wins in 80 races, but it was also very successful in the hands of our customers because it was easy to handle. manage for private teams. Our goal is therefore to offer professional customer teams the opportunity to enter this new car from the start, in parallel with official Audi Sport commitments. We are currently evaluating internally how it will work, ”he concludes.
Audi wants to have several teams to fight for the overall victory and the championship titles at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and in the IMSA series. WeatherTech SportsCar from the start of the 2023 season. All still in the LMDh category which will also see the participation of Acura, Porsche, Ferrari and other manufacturers who will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
For their part, Toyota, Alpine and Peugeot have so far chosen the LMh category to develop their new prototypes. The debut of this new category takes place this Saturday in Belgium, as part of the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. For this first 2021 WEC race, only Toyota is on the track with its new Hypercar LMhs.