Audi would like you to know that, despite rumors that the upper classes of the World Endurance Championship are all aboard the struggle bus, its new LMDh prototype is coming along just fine and will be available to privateer teams at the same time as its factory team. Audi announced the LMDh program kind of quietly while dropping the bombshell it was exiting Formula E at the end of the current season and developing an electric Dakar challenger.
LMDh is a sort of semi-manufacturer program. Finally uniting the top class of IMSA and WEC, it’s set to be the pinnacle of endurance racing, with Porsche, Audi, and Acura all confirmed for the 2023 season. Audi says it’s expecting its own entry to hit the track in competition for the first time at the Rolex 24 at Daytona that year, and that it’s selected its chassis partner for the semi-spec field.
All LMDh cars will use series-approved chassis paired to generic hybrid systems, which are then powered by manufacturer-built engines—pretty much like the equally cost-minded World Rally Championship hybrid concept. It seems to be the direction that the FIA, at least, is very much going in to help keep the costs of competition somewhat palatable to automakers’ boards after a few years of routine financial beatings.
The LMDh is fully conceived and in the process of proper development, according to Andreas Roos, who heads Audi’s motorsport projects. “We have selected a chassis partner and decided on an engine concept. Together with our colleagues from Audi Design, we are currently defining the look which will excite our fans,” he said in a press release. “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.”
Although Audi and Porsche, both under the Volkswagen group, are sharing “synergies” on their separate LMDh projects, Audi claims it will be very much its own car, not a joint development. Which, given that it’s only really building the engine (and the management systems), it means it’s either refusing to let Porsche see its data or the two former LMP1 rivals are, unlikely, now allies in developing the future biggest beast at Le Mans.
Interestingly, Audi says it’s definitely open to selling its LMDh car to privateer entries, to whom it would be made available at the same time as Audi itself enters the category. “With the LMDh project, we are continuing the philosophy of our early years in sports prototypes,” said Roos. The Audi R8 was not only the most successful prototype of its time from 2000 to 2006, with 63 victories in 80 races, but it was also very successful in the hands of our customers and easy for the teams to handle.
“This is also the premise with the electrification of our new sports prototype,” he added. “Our goal is to also put the car in the hands of professional customer teams right from the start, in parallel to factory entries. We are currently evaluating internally how this will work in detail.”
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