Audi Sport boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich would not be drawn into speculation of the teams future after the rumours about the 2018 program emerged in the German media earlier this week.
At a media event at the World Endurance Championship’s 6 Hours of Fuji, he said that planning was continuing for the 2018 season, stating that a decision has not been made for the program’s future.
“I hope they are wrong” he said about the reports. “We are working on the project we need to be competitive for the future and the programs we plan.”
“The press room, we have seen so many [rumours] over the past years. In all the cases, especially the negative cases didn’t occur. I am an optimist and are looking forward to the future. We are going the standard way to organise our race program. That is always in the autumn of the year.”
He continued to suggest that a decision could not have been finalised at this time.
“The meeting where the program is decided has not taken place yet, so there was nothing to decide. It [the decision] is to come.”
With the rumours swirling around the paddock, keeping the team on task and motivated is of prime importance. A win in this race is missing from the Audi roster, something the team are looking to rectify this weekend.
Driver, Marcel Fassler confirmed that Dr Ullrich had assured the team that no decision had been made and that the trust in the team management and strong relationship between team members meant that they were focused on the race, rather than rumours.
“You know about the future, we cannot really say something. We don’t know yet. There are rumours going away but there is no official decision. At the moment we don’t know. We know we have a race tomorrow and fight for the win.” Fassler said.
“We are focused on results. It is not in our hands. They will take care about that, we will take care on the track.”
Dr Ullrich continued to say that the diesel is one of the most efficient combustion engines and it can be very clean. In acknowledging the political nature of the situation he welcomes different engine solutions.
“There are many different sources for energy and all these sources can be used to move the cars forward have to be taken into consideration. This needs to be brought into a rule book that give everyone a chance. That is not that easy.”
This rumour also comes at a time when their Formula E program is enjoying success and a great deal of fan engagement.
“Formula E is something we decided before Le Mans. We looked into the concept for quite some time. We were involved with some of the first teams in the Championship and what we have seen is something that fits nicely in the future of automotive.
“It makes sense that Audi is one of the first teams that jumps in first to the concept. Electric racing is for sure a part of the future and racing in cities is very interesting. The combination is completely different spectators – they are not the typical race fans, it is a different audience.”
“This is interesting – very young people…are found there and they are the buyers of the future.”
But Dr Ullrich is confident that they can live next to each other in the Audi Sport stable, citing the top tier nature of WEC being worth the investment for Audi.
“If you decide to go into the top technology formula, you will invest more money than in the other formulas. This is something everybody knows. The manufactures and ACO are working together to get cost control.
“Everybody has to work to control costs, not just fuel consumption.”
While the rumours are around the Audi team is still looking to the future, not only from a technological point of view but from a strategic view was well.
As is usual for the Audi brand, they are the early adopters and joining other series should not be a reflection of their commitment to the World Endurance Championship, rather a diversification of their program to reach the audiences they need, to create the technology for the future.
When the Board meets, the world will find out if they agree that this program should continue.
Expect editorial comment from the DSC editor on the subject tomorrow