At the same time, Audi is building an electric Dakar challenger for 2022, which will have a petrol ‘range-extender’ engine to charge its batteries when the distance between charges is too great.
Audi ended its long run of sports car success in 2016 to focus on Formula E. After 13 overall Le Mans victories, its diesel R18 was retired amid the dieselgate scandal and heavy investment in electric cars by its parent company, the Volkswagen Group.
“Formula E has accompanied the transformation phase at Audi,” said Markus Duesmann, Audi’s head of technical development. “Today, electromobility at the four rings is no longer a dream of the future, but the present.”
It’s not known when it intends to return to top-level sports car racing, but it will be starting afresh, with the diesel engines banned from the LMDh class — even if it had wanted to use them.
Audi’s said that its Dakar announcement would form part of the development programme for electric road cars.
“The aim is to permanently improve the performance of the electric drivetrain and the battery in the years to come,” it said.
“The experience gained in this process should then be incorporated into the further development of future electrified production models.
“We are taking the next step in electrified motorsport by facing the most extreme conditions. The many technical freedoms offered by the Dakar Rally provide a perfect test laboratory for us in this respect.”
Audi said that it would continue to support customer teams in Formula E.