Audi’s highly anticipated return to prototype racing in 2023 within the new LMDh ranks has undergone a surprising development. RACER has learned the German manufacturer will not campaign factory entries in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, electing to focus on a sole factory program in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The change comes after the brand actively pursued a North American partner team to field LMDhs on its behalf. RACER understands conversations with those potential teams – at least one of which reached an advanced stage – were broken off by Audi after the decision was made to concentrate on the FIA WEC.
Although no factory-led Audi LMDh entries are anticipated in IMSA, talks with customer teams have been in motion and it’s believed one or more works-affiliated cars could be on the WeatherTech Championship grid in 2023.
Despite earning great success in the 2000s with full-factory prototype programs and semi-works efforts in the American Le Mans Series, the relationship between Audi AG and Audi of America was often strained to the point of being irreconcilable with their shared motorsports endeavors in the U.S.
It’s unclear whether lingering corporate issues from former racing projects involving the main corporate arm in Germany and its American subsidiary have been a factor in the decision to focus on the FIA WEC, or if different problems surfaced and led to the scuttling of Audi’s factory LMDh presence in IMSA.
On another front with the LMDh project, it appears hiring has started as multiple sources have told RACER that IMSA DPi champion Felipe Nasr is among the first drivers signed by Audi.
Multiple attempts to procure an official comment on the shift in strategies from Audi were unsuccessful.