We recently learned that Audi, the most dominant force in the FIA WEC (World Endurance Championship) for almost two decades, would be leaving the famous motorsport. Instead, the four-ringed brand will be competing in the all-electric Formula E. This move is wise for Audi, as it will get the brand out of a very expensive sport — which costs Audi half a billion dollars ever year — that isn’t making a good business case anymore and getting into a sport that pushes technology for the future. But Audi’s Le Mans departure means a lot more to the FIA WEC, and the rest of the motorsport world, than many might think.
Firstly, Audi is by far and away the largest contributor to the sport, providing over $500,000,000 to the FIA. So right there, the FIA is losing its main contributor and is going to struggle to try and make that lost money up. Secondly, without Audi dominating the sport as it used to, that leaves Porsche as the only true force in the sport. The WEC will struggle to hold the same level of viewership and fanbase without Audi. But, most importantly, Audi’s shift to Formula E will be a massive gain for the all-electric sport.
While BMW has helped Formula E a bit, teaming with Team Andretti, Audi will be the sport’s largest an most important manufacturer team and likely the most dominant. If Audi can replicate even half of the level of success that it had in Le Mans, it will be the leading Formula E team within only a few seasons. The ABT Schaefler Audi Sport team has already won a few races and is already one of the top dogs in this season. This, in terms of popularity, will help tremendously.
At the moment, Formula E is almost a novelty. Its fanbase is minute, its TV time is almost nonexistent and its advertising is slim at best. However, gaining the most dominant endurance racing manufacturer team in the past two decades will help considerably. People will tune in to see how Audi fairs in Formula E after its success in the WEC. This, in turn, will create more popularity for Formula E, making the sport more exciting, more competitive and, ultimately, more successful.
It will also help other manufacturers in Formula E, such as BMW. While they might not appreciate Audi’s presence if it keeps winning, they will appreciate the fanbase Audi has brought and the level of popularity. It would be like the current NFL dynasty New England Patriots moving to the CFL (Canadian Football Leauge), it would bring a massive influx of competition which would bring in a larger fanbase.
So while Audi may have made this switch from endurance racing to Formula E as a business decision, being that the recent diesel scandal has robbed Audi of both some much need cash and clean image, it’s one that will have a much further impact than just Audi’s pockets.