It ranks, by a distance, as the best news for endurance racing in a traumatic 2020 but just how and why has Audi managed to get board confirmation of a top class Sportscar programme from 2023.
There appear to be several key factors in play:
The convergence between ACO and IMSA rules allowing any entrant for the forthcoming LMDh regulations to race in either, both, or parts of both Championships, for overall wins, gives manufacturers the kind of marketing-led flexibility that they crave.
It means that from 2023 for the first time in decades the Le Mans 24 Hours and Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona can be run by the same teams, with the same cars, for overall wins.
Cost control has long been a watchword for the new formula but it isn’t just the unit cost of the car and a season’s campaign that has been key here, it’s what the new formula means in terms of control over the escalation in costs that came in the LMP1 Hybrid era.
LMDh is a formula that employs a Balance of Performance process to maintain a performance envelope for all contenders, and, in ACO rules racing in the WEC, against the 2021 rules Le Mans Hypercars too.
That, coupled with a long homologation period, should see costs becoming far more controlled and predictable over a multi-year programme, the vertical development curve that produced astonishing results, but also massive cost increases, should simply not be a factor.
Add into the mix too, beyond the certainty of factory-run and supported cars for the potential for customer cars to be part of the picture as the formula matures, great news for race fans with larger grids in prospect and some ‘David vs. Goliath’ clashes – but great news too for the manufacturers who get to build into their budgeting plans a potential income stream for parts and support.
And whilst there has been some bad news of late from some manufacturers with reduced support for racing, with more of the same to come in the coming days, the factors levelled above in support of a programme in the top tier for endurance racing will be well understood by every motorsport professional in the business of getting sign-off on future manufacturer programmes.
It may not feel like it today but there should be plenty more good news to come for the near future.