AUDI is pulling out of the Le Mans 24 hour motor race which it has dominated for the past 18 years, clinching 13 victories.
The German car maker has announced that from next year it will focus its motorsport activities on electric racing cars in the FIA Formula E championships.
Announcing the decision to end its dominance of world endurance racing, Audi boss Rupert Stadler told the company's 300 employees in its motorsport division it was a ‘strategic decision' to focus on ‘things that would keep Audi competitive in the years ahead'.
"We're going to contest the race for the future on electric power," said Stadler. "As our production cars are becoming increasingly electric, our motorsport cars, as Audi's technological spearheads, have to even more so."
Audi will continue to race in the German DTM series where it will be competing with a successor of the Audi RS 5 in 2017. No jobs in the motorsport division will be affected.
Audi's Le Mans prototypes have achieved 106 victories, 80 pole positions and 94 fastest race laps.
On two occasions, Audi won the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with the Audi R18e-tronquattro race car.
From 2000 to 2008, Audi secured the title in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), the world's most important racing series for Le Mans prototypes at the time.
"After 18 years in prototype racing that were exceptionally successful for Audi, it's obviously extremely hard to leave," says head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich.
"Audi Sport Team Joest shaped the WEC during this period like no other team. I would like to express my thanks to our squad, to Reinhold Joest and his team, to the drivers, partners and sponsors for this extremely successful cooperation. It's been a great time!"
No final decision has yet been made concerning Audi's future involvement in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (World RX).
In the current 2016 season, factory driver Mattias Ekstrom in an Audi S1 EKS RX quattro has already secured the World Championship.
Up to now, Audi's involvement has been limited to supporting the private EKS team and the brand is currently evaluating a possible extension of the commitment with, the prospect of electrification being on the agenda in rallycross.