Audi inches closer to its Le Mans return
Audi is no stranger to Le Mans, they have competed at the Circuit de la Sarthe numerous times and, with thirteen wins Audi has the second highest wins of any manufacturer, after Porsche. It was in 2016 that Audi quit Le Mans to focus on Formula E racing, but it is confirmed now that it will return to the 24 hour duel in 2023. Audi's new competitor which will race in the LMDh class, will be a successor to the famed R18 Le Mans Prototype, which has already won the gruelling endurance race four times in a row. Co-developed with sister company Porsche who will also race in the same class, Audi says that it has "largely completed" concept work of the new hybrid racer, which will mark Ingolstadt's return to the World Endurance Championship (WEC) after five years. The two automakers will share the same platform in development of their respective sports prototypes, but Audi says that both cars will be distinctly different.
The LMDh class gives participants the freedom to develop their own powertrain but requires them to use a specific hybrid system and from a choice of four fixed chassis from Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic or Oreca. The LMDh rules also feature strict aerodynamic limits. Andreas Roos, who is responsible for all factory motorsport programs at Audi Sport, says, "We have selected a chassis partner and decided on an engine concept. Together with our colleagues from Audi design, we are currently designing the look which will excite our fans. Our goal is for the first prototype to be on its wheels early next year and to complete its roll-out in the first quarter." Audi Sport boss Julius Seebach commented on the partnership with Porsche saying, "A great strength of the Volkswagen group is the collaboration of the brands in the development of road cars. We are now transferring this proven model to motorsport." Audi Sport is working with the road-car design team on the car's shape to distinguish itself from its competitors, to make it look how an Audi race car should look like.
Audi left Formula E to focus on Le Mans and Dakar, arguably two of the most gruelling forms of endurance racing, and its new WEC challenger is being developed alongside an SUV for the Dakar rally. Audi will also offer its new racer to customer teams "right from the start, in parallel to factory entries". Because of the lower development cost of LMDh cars and them being eligible for the IMSA series, Audi says it has already received interest from IMSA customers. Currently Porsche, Acura and now Audi have signed up for the LMDh class, while Toyota, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, Peugeot, Ferrari and ByKolles have signed up for the all-new Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) class.