Audi has committed to Formula E ahead of the 2017/2018 season where it will race under the ‘Team Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’ banner. Participation in the burgeoning motorsport discipline goes hand-in-hand with Audi’s projected €24bn investment into model development and innovative technologies.
The Audi factory works team is keeping ABT and Schaeffler onboard as a technical partners (as the name indicates) having assumed control from the duo last season. ABT, a prestigious German tuning house, contributes expertise and is currently involved in DTM and GT Racing, while Schaeffler specialises in innovative drivetrain technologies.
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The Audi Formula E race car encases an all-new drivetrain co-engineered by Audi and Schaeffler. The regulations permit development across the powertrain (motor and transmission), selected suspension components and supporting software. Audi hopes the efforts in drivetrain development will endow the Audi e-tron FE04 with the performance to top the grid by focusing on maximising efficiency.
Speaking about the new powertrain, head of Audi Motorsport, Dieter Gass, said, ‘together with our technology partner Schaeffler, we have developed a completely new powertrain’. More interestingly, he alluded to the sound (a touchy point in motorsport of late), ‘the car also sounds different because we’re pursuing new avenues in technology’.
The new Formula E car will be clad in a tri-colour livery: white, metallic green and black to distinguish the FE04 from the rest of the grid. Current Formula E champion and ex-F1 driver Lucas Di Grassi has been retained for the season. Joining the Brazilian in the sister car is Daniel Abt, who has also featured in each season of the Formula since its inception.
As part of the management shake-up Audi has brought in Allan McNish as the new team principal. The former F1 man should be ready to guide the team in his new berth having watched on from the pitlane last season.
The contingent of mainstream car manufacturers in Formula E has consisted of Renault and Jaguar so far. BMW will further add to the heavyweight names participating in Formula E next season, merging with the Andretti team and supplying the powertrain. Porsche and Mercedes-Benz are preparing themselves for entry in the 2018/2019 season, too.