Audi and Porsche have scaled down their Le Mans 24 Hour racing programmes as a consequence of cost-cutting associated with the VW Group emissions scandal – and as a result British race winner Nick Tandy will not be able to defend his crown with Porsche.
The decision was revealed prior to an Audi event, where its next generation R18 e-tron quattro racer was unveiled (pictured).
A statement read: “In the interest of maximum cost efficiency, Audi and its group sister brand, Porsche, have agreed to each compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours – the WEC season’s pinnacle event – with only two instead of the most recent three cars.”
The 2016 Audi R18 e-tron quattro will compete in the LMP1 category, but now takes advantage of the World Endurance Championship’s (WEC) innovative hybrid rules to compete in the six megajoule hybrid sub-class. In 2015, it competed in the four megajoule category.
As a result, the diesel-powered R18 will no longer use a flywheel energy storage system and mechanical battery set-up. Instead it will have a front-axle kinetic energy-retrieval system and lithium-ion battery arrangement. Petrol-powered rivals Porsche and Toyota will both race in the eight megajoule category.
The R18 will be driven by former champions and Le Mans winners Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler. The second car will be led by former WEC champion Loic Duval and Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis.
The drivers of Audi’s third car at Le Mans in 2015, Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi and Rene Rast, have all been told they will remain with the squad as works drivers, but have no allocated programmes at present.
Porsche has yet to reveal its LMP1 racer, but has confirmed reigning WEC champions Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard will stick together, and will be joined in a second car by Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb.
Porsche’s decision leaves both Tandy and fellow Le Mans winner Earl Bamber unable to defend their crowns. Third driver Nico Hulkenberg was unlikely to have been part of the team anyway, because he has a race commitment with the Force India F1 team.
There has been no announcement as to whether Tandy or Bamber will continue to be supported in any capacity by Porsche.