If you would believe the press release on the Audi Media Center website HERE, then yes they are leaving the WEC, and Le Mans prototype racing effective the end of the 2016 season. The decision will allow Audi to “contest the race for the future on electric power”. What does it mean in the immediate sense for all of us? It means no longer will you see the Audi diesels battling Toyota alongside Porsche’s hybrids at Le Mans or any other WEC sanctioned endurance circuit. Audi will enter Formula E in time for the start of the 2017 season. This marks the end of the Le Mans prototype racing that began 18 years ago. Their departure from the WEC does not extend to the DTM series where they last won outright in 2013, and are committed to fielding teams.
For those of you not familiar with Formula E, it’s an exciting newish series with a lot of big manufacturers scheduled to enter teams in the coming seasons as car companies try to determine what the next step will be if the internal combustion engine has crossed its final finish line. Check out the Formula E website HERE. It’s an up and coming series that is fan-centric, where the formula type cars are powered solely by electric motors. 2016 marks the third season for FIA’s “E” series, and aims to make electric racing a bona fide competitive alternative to the existing combustion based series as well as develop electric vehicles both on and off the track. The series is staged in a circular fashion meaning that each circuit follows the last destination forming a loop at the end of the season which presumably means that transporting the material to stage the series is traveling in an efficient and sustainable manner. Presently all stops on the series are street circuits, and Formula E cars cannot complete a race on one battery, and presently the batteries cannot be switched out. To facilitate a battery change a Formula E driver must bring their car back to the paddock where it is switched with another car with a fresh battery. This is not ideal for maintaining momentum in a race, but changes in 2019 will finally allow a car to finish an entire race on one battery or at least using one car.