It’s time for Audi to take the F1 bait

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Audi R10, Le Mans 24 Hours, 2007 | AudiAudi fielded the winning team in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours and the German Touring Car Championship (DTM).

But why aren’t they racing their two major German luxury car manufacturing rivals – BMW and Mercedes – in Formula 1?

On the face of it Audi’s motor racing record in recent years is exemplary. Since 2000 the company has won every Le Mans 24 Hours except the 2003 race, won by fellow Volkswagen Group company Bentley. This year Mattias Ekstrom reclaimed the DTM crown he also won for the team in 2004.

So why aren’t this crack racing squad doing battle with their premium car building rivals in Formula 1?

Part of the explanation seems to be that they just don’t like competition very much. They are the only manufacturer in the DTM apart from Mercedes, and the only manufacturer in Le Mans this year apart from Peugeot.

If there were a prize for unsportsmanlike conduct and prodigious whining in motor sport in 2007 it would surely go not to Fernando Alonso but to Audi’s DTM team. During a particularly bruising but not unduly controversial race at Barcelona this year the team withdrew its drivers from the race, like a child taking his football away because his team are losing.

While they were the only manufacturer entrant in Le Mans (before Peugeot returned this year) Audi pushed the race organisers into offering favourable regulations for diesel powered cars so it could enter the oil-burning R10 as a PR exercise.

If this is all sounding a little bitter let me say right now that Audi’s engineering deserves respect. The R8 race car that dominated Le Mans until the R10 came along was a phenomenal machine – fast, reliable and serviceable.

It would be marvellous to see their competitive race team where it really belongs – in F1, up against the likes of BMW, McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari.

Perhaps this will change. At present Audi is part of the Volkswagen Group but Porsche is widely expected to take over the company in the near future. Porsche already runs sports cars in the American Le Mans Series against the Audi R10s, which would be pointless if the two companies were united.

In that case the best solution would be for them to axe the Audi sports car team, re-brand the all-conquering R10 as a Porsche, and move the Audi personnel to F1.

Until that happens Audi are just big fish in a small ponds.

Photo: Audi