By Mark Robinson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Audi is forging ahead with development of its LMDh prototype, confirming Thursday that the car’s planned debut will be at the 2023 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the opening race on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule.
Working in concert with its parent Volkswagen Group and fellow group brand Porsche – which has also committed to developing an LMDh of its own – Audi has already nailed down the basic concepts for its LMDh.
“We have selected a chassis partner and decided on an engine concept,” Andreas Roos, who is responsible for all factory motorsport commitments at Audi Sport, said in a news release. “Together with our colleagues from Audi Design, we are currently defining the look which will excite our fans. Our goal is for the first prototype to be on its wheels early next year and to complete its rollout in the first quarter.”
Following an intensive testing regimen in 2022, the Audi LMDh is expected to make its competition debut in the iconic 24-hour race at Daytona International Speedway in January 2023. In addition to the WeatherTech Championship, Audi plans to compete with the LMDh in the FIA World Endurance Championship, highlighted by the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The LMDh class is replacing Daytona Prototype international (DPi) as the top-tier class in the WeatherTech Championship in 2023. Announced in January 2020 as a shared platform between IMSA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), LMDh is based on a cost-capped car that will generate more than 670 horsepower (500 kilowatts) from the combined output of an internal combustion engine and a hybrid powertrain.
The standardized LMDh chassis will be built by one of the approved constructors (Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and ORECA), with competing automobile manufacturers open to developing their own branded engine and stylized bodywork. Bosch, Williams Advanced Engineering and Xtrac will work in concert to provide the spec hybrid powertrain system for all LMDh cars.
Thus far, Audi, Porsche and Acura have announced plans to develop LMDh cars for competition.
“The new LMDh category fits perfectly with our new setup in motorsport,” said Julius Seebach, Managing Director, Audi Sport GmbH, and responsible for motorsport at Audi. “The regulations allow us to field fascinating race cars in prestigious races worldwide. In addition, we are making use of synergies inside the Volkswagen Group with our partner strategy.”
Seebach also lauded the cooperative in-house effort with sister brand Porsche for furthering the development process for both brands.
“A great strength of the Volkswagen Group is the collaboration of the brands in the development of road cars,” Seebach said. “We are now transferring this proven model to motorsport. Nevertheless, the new sports prototype will be just as much a genuine Audi as the Audi RS e-tron GT that was launched recently and has also been developed on a platform shared with Porsche.”
Audi boasts a successful history in IMSA, with 95 race wins across all categories and nine consecutive prototype manufacturer championships in the American Le Mans Series from 2000-2008. While the brand has accumulated 13 victories at Le Mans and 11 overall wins in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, Audi’s two triumphs in the Rolex 24 came in the GT class (2013) and GT Daytona (2016).
Audi’s last IMSA prototype victory came at Sebring in 2013, when Oliver Jarvis, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer led a 1-2 sweep for Audi Sport Team Joest in the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 car.
“With the LMDh project, we are continuing the philosophy of our early years in sports prototypes,” Roos said. “The Audi R8 was not only the most successful prototype of its time from 2000 to 2006, with 63 victories in 80 races, but it was also very successful in the hands of our customers and easy for the teams to handle.
“This is also the premise with the electrification of our new sports prototype. Our goal is to also put the car in the hands of professional customer teams right from the start, in parallel to factory entries. We are currently evaluating internally how this will work in detail.”