Audi is quitting Le Mans for Formula E as it shifts its focus from diesel to electrics

2014: Last hurrah at Le Mans for Audi.
2014: Last hurrah at Le Mans for Audi.
Image: Reuters/Stephane Mahe
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In another sign of the Volkswagen Group’s effort to recover from its dieselgate scandal, its Audi brand has canceled participation in world endurance car racing, including Le Mans, which it has dominated for a decade and a half. Instead, the German carmaker will concentrate on racing electric cars.

The decision is surprising given Audi’s record of success. From 2000 through 2014, its diesels won the 24-hour Le Mans 13 times, losing only in 2003 and 2009.

But the dieselgate scandal, in which VW and Audi vehicles deceived pollution-measuring equipment on 11 million cars, is costing the company billions of dollars in fines. On Oct. 25, a California judge approved a $14.7 billion settlement in one case, and more US fines are possible. In addition, a competitive endurance racing program can cost an estimated $200 million to $300 million a year.

Another Volkswagen brand—Porsche, which won Le Mans last year—apparently will continue to compete in the endurance races.

Audi meanwhile has been making a sharp turn into electric vehicles, and will race Formula E cars.

“We’re going to contest the race for the future on electric power,” Audi chairman Rupert Stadler said in a statement. “As our production cars are becoming increasingly electric, our motorsport cars, as Audi’s technological spearheads, have to be even more so.”