Audi shocked the world of motorsport by announcing that it was ending its endurance racing programme after 18 hugely successful years.
In the words of chairman Rupert Stadler, they are turning their attentions to “the race for the future on electric power” by focussing resources on Formula E instead. “As our production cars are becoming increasingly electric,” he continued, “our motorsport cars, as Audi’s technological spearheads, have to even more so.”
Okay, so the news wasn’t a complete surprise: rumours of their departure began to intensify during the Six Hours of Fuji earlier this month, and the decline in relevance of diesel technology has been clear for some time.
But after 13 victories at Le Mans since the turn of the millennium and two titles in the WEC’s World Manufacturers’ Championship, their decision to quit has left the LMP1 class looking threadbare for 2017.
Currently only Porsche, Toyota and privateers ByKolles Racing have entries planned for next season, and while the ACO says “others will soon be arriving”, it isn’t yet clear who will step into the void, or when.
Whoever decides to have a crack at LMP1 will have very big shoes to fill. To get an idea of just how big, here are five of Audi’s most impressive displays at Circuit de La Sarthe…
Picture: Le Mans 2014