The Head of Audi Motorsport talks about Audi’s entry into Formula E
Why is Audi committing to Formula E?
Formula E, as a fully electric series, suits Audi perfectly. Electric mobility is an important topic for us and we aim to develop Audi into a leading premium manufacturer in this area. By 2025, every fourth Audi should be an electric car. Therefore, it’s only logical that we integrate Formula E into our motorsport commitment.
Audi has always used motorsport to test and further develop new technology for future production series. Is that now also the case with Formula E?
I am convinced of that. With quattro drive, we revolutionized rally racing and subsequently set new benchmarks in circuit racing as well. In the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Audi was the first manufacturer to win with a TFSI engine, a TDI and a hybrid race car and, as a result, repeatedly went down in motorsport history. We would like to continue this now in fully electric racing.
How do you see the development of Formula E?
Very positively. Formula E is the pioneer of electrified motorsport. At Audi, we addressed this topic long before Formula E and therefore have viewed this racing series positively and with an open mind from the beginning. Thanks to our partnership with Team ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport and our driver Lucas di Grassi, we have had a foot in Formula E from day one. After seeing the series develop in an exciting direction, we are now taking the next step.
Has the fact that Formula E is held in metropolises like Hong Kong and New York also played a role?
Absolutely. Formula E, with its races in the hearts of major cities, is an ideal stage on which to present the topics of electric mobility and urbanization to a large audience. Formula E is at present the only motorsport series that has managed to hold all of its races in cities. That means that with Formula E we bring motorsport to the people and not the other way around. That so many cities are hosting Formula E races is obviously possible just because the Formula E cars produce zero local emissions and low noise levels due to their electric powertrains. We have also gained the impression that the audience at Formula E is not necessarily identical with your typical motorsport fans. Lots of young people, who are interested in modern things, come to the events and that perfectly suits our company’s strategy.
What do Audi’s next steps in Formula E look like?
First, we are partners of a team that has been successfully active in Formula E for two years. In the 2016/2017 season, our primary role is that of a sponsor and partner. During this season, we will begin to increase the support for the team. For the 2017/2018 season, we will expand our activity together with ABT and our technology partner Schaeffler into a full factory-backed program.
What role does Audi Sport at Neuburg play in this development?
ABT and Schaeffler were in charge of developing the FE02. In the future, we will progressively transfer the development to Neuburg, where all of our factory-backed motorsport projects are run. Activities in support of Formula E have been taking place at Audi Sport in Neuburg for quite some time and Team ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport has also performed roll-outs and bench testing there. This cooperation will now be intensified. This is where Formula E has an advantage as well. Due to the low noise levels, the cars can be driven in Neuburg without any problem – whereas the series’ restrictions in terms of test days tend to pose a greater hurdle.
At the moment, Allan McNish is coordinating the Formula E project at Audi Sport. Will this be a permanent arrangement?
On a transitional basis, Allan has taken the lead of the Formula E project, comes to Neuburg once a week and will also be on site at the races. We have to first create the necessary base for Formula E, including manpower. I assume that by the beginning of 2017, at the very latest, we will be able to name a head of Formula E and Allan will be able to focus completely on his responsibilities as motorsport coordinator for the Audi Group.