Formula E may not attract the same attention as Formula 1, but it's building momentum as the 2016/2017 season edges closer. The addition of Roborace as a support series promises to add some excitement to race weekends, and big brands are putting their considerable weight behind the series. Renault has been involved since the start, and Jaguar has announced it will be fielding a team. Now, Audi is dipping its toe a little bit deeper into the water.
When we say dipping its toe into the water, we mean it. Rather than diving in headlong and throwing its full weight behind a factory-backed team, Audi will slowly ramp up its involvement with its current ABT Schaeffler partner over the course of the upcoming 2016/2017 season.
The team already has access to Audi Sport facilities in Neuburg an der Donau, Germany, but more funding and technical support will be provided by the factory. To reflect the change, ABT cars will wear bigger Audi stickers on their flanks and rear wings. After all, what good is motorsport if you can't show off your involvement?
After increasing its footprint during 2016/17, Audi is planning to work hand-in-hand with the ABT Schaeffler team as a fully-fledged factory backer for the 2017/18 season.
So, why the decision to delve deeper into the world of electric racing? Well, a fully electric Audi SUV is coming in 2018, and the company is expecting one-in-four of its cars to be fully electric by 2025. It might not be quite as simple as race on Sunday, sell on Monday anymore, but success on the track could make a difference in the upcoming EV battleground.
"Electric mobility is one of the key topics in our industry," says Dr. Stefan Knirsch, Board Member at Audi. "We intend to evolve into one of the leading premium car manufacturers in this field. The first model for this is planned to be an SUV we're going to present in 2018. In the light of these plans, adapting our motorsport program and taking up a commitment in a fully electric racing series is only a logical move."
The Formula E season kicks off on October 9 in Hong Kong, with testing set to start at Donington Park in the UK this week.