Tag Archives: Audi

Car manufacturers are rapidly embracing Formula E

When Porsche announced it was abruptly ending its LMP1 program to focus on Formula E it helped show how enthusiastic car makers are about the relatively new electric series. Porsche is joining Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Renault, Jaguar, DS Automobiles (PSA Peugeot Citroen) and Mahindra in 2019 giving Formula E a line-up of major manufacturers* that other categories can only dream of. Not only that, but the Fiat/Chrysler group has also expressed an interest in joining and the series is chasing down support from US and Japanese companies. McLaren Applied Technologies is also supplying equipment to all the teams so it is surprising how strongly the wider car industry has embraced Formula E.

It is a wonderful boost for the championship, but it also comes with a risk that needs to be managed.

Manufacturers in motorsport
History suggests that when car companies flood into motorsport they increase costs and ultimately reduce the level of competitiveness. The teams with larger budgets enter an arms race and that widens the gap between the big factories and the smaller independents. Once costs get to a less sustainable level and the competition isn’t so equal, the series loses its appeal and the manufacturers start dropping out. If the smaller independents haven’t been looked after during that time the sport is left in a real mess. This has repeated itself through Formula One, sportscars, touring cars, rallying, and is playing out right now in the World Endurance Championship.

Formula E bosses have so far adopted a sensible and measured approach to developing the series and will be well aware the risks of heavy manufacturer involvement. The sport cannot rely on the car companies to support the series forever because they will leave as soon as it no longer suits their brand. Given that only one of the eight companies can win at any given time, this will hit some harder than others. Formula E needs to remain viable for independent teams and this can be managed through cost controls, spec equipment, and other artificial measures to keep the competition close. The short-term future looks very exciting but the long-term picture is also quite fascinating.

The impact on Formula One
The surge of manufacturer interest in Formulas E means that is where car companies are now looking to showcase their new technology instead of Formula 1. This even includes three of the four companies currently involved in F1!

With this in mind, it is an opportune time for F1 bosses to examine the sport’s focus on road relevance. Formula 1 has always been the pinnacle of automotive technology and has historically built the regulations to facilitate this. For example, the current turbo-hybrid engines were introduced because that was identified as the future direction of road cars. However, now that Formula E is where car companies want to experiment and showcase their new technology, does Formula One need to keep a link to the wider automotive industry? In a recent interview, Ross Brawn (Formula One Managing Director of Motorsports) suggested pure sporting entertainment was now more of a focus for F1 than road relevance. The rush of manufacturers into Formula E could speed up this change in Formula One Management’s philosophy.

Another possibility is that one day, long into the future, Formula E will simply merge with Formula 1. The petrol engine will not be around forever and once all cars are running with electric motors it’s inevitable that Formula 1 and Formula E will become the same thing. The fact that Liberty Global owns F1 and also has a minority stake in Formula E could make that more of a possibility.

*If you think Mahindra isn’t a major manufacturer, keep in mind the company has been around since 1954 and generates four times as much revenue as Ferrari.

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DTM: Three interesting stories from Moscow Raceway

Maro Engel’s victory on Sunday was a monumental surprise
2017 is Maro Engel’s fifth season in the DTM and up until Sunday his best result was a solitary sixth place back in 2009. He started Sunday’s race from second last after a mistake in qualifying so there was nothing to suggest he would be fighting for victory. However, Engel made a pitstop at the end of lap one and when most of the field was subsequently delayed by the Safety Car he was given a very surprising (and lucky) shot at the win.

Timo Glock and Mattias Ekstrom renewed their feud at the same circuit
Two years ago at Moscow raceway a high-speed collision between Timo Glock and Mattias Ekstrom took both drivers out of the race. Glock had plenty to say at the time, telling Ekstrom on social media to “watch the race from Wehrlein and learn you Idiot! How stupid you need to be to overtake in that corner!”

Fast forward to 2017 at the same circuit and the pair managed to collide again during Saturday’s race. This time it was Eksrtom with some choice words, jokingly telling Motorsport.com “What happened in Turn 3 was just Timo running out of talent and making a mistake… the day when he is championship contender, I will also run out of talent.” He later added “You know, what goes around comes around. I’m not angry with him, everybody here tries to do the best they can, score as many points as they can, but I think, it’s just like I said, what goes around comes around.”

Audi’s tactics drew criticism from BMW and Mercedes
When an early Safety Car hurt Mattias Ekstrom’s chances of victory on Sunday, Audi came up with an alternative strategy to keep him in the hunt. The team had one of their other drivers, Nico Muller, stay out during the pitstop cycle so he could take the lead when everyone else made their mandatory stop. From the lead Muller could back up the field into Ekstrom who was then able to regain 20 seconds in 20 laps.

Despite a long history of team tactics in the DTM, Audi’s rivals weren’t impressed. BMW Motorsport Director, Jens Marquardt, stated “this is not the kind of racing we really want to see, this is nothing for the fans” whilst Ulrich Fritz from Mercedes said “we have to ask the question if we want to play chess or if we want to go racing….I don’t really get it, I have to say.”

Audi claimed a late pitstop had always been their strategy, and Nico Muller himself said “They had DRS, I didn’t and they didn’t manage to get past on such a long straight. They first have to sort their stuff out and then we can talk.”

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The 6 Hours of Fuji was incredibly close

After 6 hours and 1,113km of racing, Toyota beat Audi by just 1.4 seconds in the World Endurance Championship race at Fuji. That tiny margin is amazing for such a long race, especially considering there were no Safety Cars to bunch up the field and the two leading cars had radically different engines.

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F1: Recent events could push Volkswagen into F1 rather than away from it

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Motorsport has always offered car companies an opportunity to build positive energy around their brands, and although Volkswagen has much bigger issues to deal with right now, there might be a chance recent events could eventually push VW into F1 rather than away from it.

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DTM: Audi has “started a big war” that could define the 2015 season

On the final lap of Sunday’s DTM race, Timo Scheider was racing with the two Mercedes of Pascal Wehrlein and Robert Wickens. Wehrlein was leading the championship at the time so worked together with Wickens to move ahead of Scheider’s Audi into 6th place. It was fairly standard racecraft but Audi’s response was not a sporting one. As Wehrlein got ahead they instructed Scheider to “push him off” (in German) and Timo duly obliged by punting both Mercedes drivers into the gravel at the very next corner. Amazing. It was a sly move that’s quite unusual at such a high professional level.

Audi’s boss, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, initially denied giving the instruction but later admitted it was a comment he made in the heat of the moment that wasn’t supposed to reach the driver. Scheider was disqualified from the race and Audi will face a separate hearing to determine if there should be any further sanctions. It was a serious professional foul.

There is plenty of bad blood between Audi and Mercedes so this controversy could rumble on for a while. In 2007 Audi withdrew all of their cars partway through a DTM race after their two championship contenders were taken out by Mercedes drivers. At the time, Audi’s bosses said “we had to get the impression that the Mercedes drivers used every opportunity to eliminate our cars. This is not the style in which we want to conduct motorsport” but now the boot is on the other foot and the Mercedes camp has made its displeasure well known. Pascal Wehrlein himself said that Audi “started a big war today” so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The 2015 DTM championship fight has now become a little bitter and Sunday’s race might define the rest of the season.

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WEC: Recent history suggests three-car teams are more successful at Le Mans

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Interestingly, Toyota will be the only manufacturer battling for outright honours at Le Mans this weekend without a three-car LMP1 team. The decision to run two cars instead of three might’ve cost Toyota a shot at victory last year but the team hasn’t changed its approach and has said the additional funding required to run a third car is better spent on research and development. That’s a fair point. You’re probably better off with two good cars than three which are not ready.

However, there are distinct advantages to running a three-car team at Le Mans because the extra car provides insurance against problems hitting the other two. The statistics also tend to back this up – only twice in the last fifteen years has the race been won by a manufacturer with only two outright contenders on the grid. In a race where reliability is everything, more cars equals more chances to reach the finish, and several of Audi’s 13 victories mightn’t have been possible with only a two-car squad.

It will be interesting to see what impact reliability has on the LMP1 field this weekend.

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WEC: The 2015 World Endurance Championship is incredibly close

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Not only have speeds increased in the WEC this year but the racing has become mighty close. At the first race of the season the winning margin between Audi and Porsche was just 4.6 seconds. That’s barely anything. The race was a thriller, and although the split between those same two cars was bigger three weeks later at Spa Francorchamps, it was still only 13.4 seconds. That’s a cumulative gap of just 18 seconds after 12 hours and 2,416km of racing – and that’s without any safety cars bunching up the field! It’s amazing how close the racing has been, especially when you consider that Audi and Porsche use two completely different types of engine. The regulations that allow a 2-litre V4 engine to be competitive against a 4-litre V6 (by using more electrical energy) are working perfectly.

Hopefully it stays that way over 24 hours at Le Mans.

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