The German automaker's hypercar program had advanced beyond simulations and was ready for track tests.
Last year, Audi announced that it was intending to return to Le Mans and endurance racing as a whole from 2023, but a year later, it announced that it was putting the development of its prototype hypercar on hold. That pause became permanent as Audi began exploring a Formula 1 entry, which it finally confirmed in August. But as per Motorsport.com, it seems that Audi may have squandered a fortune working towards Le Mans. According to one of the car's development drivers, DTM star Nico Muller, the car was just weeks from its first on-track test before the program was put on ice.
"At the end, the car was ready to go," said Muller. "We worked a lot on the sim, everything was read to go into proper on-track testing. It had been developed together with Porsche; it is no secret that they shared the same platform with Multimatic." Muller added that he was very close to finally experiencing the prototype racer he had helped develop "but the call [to halt the program] came a few weeks too early."
Audi's customer racing boss Chris Reinke confirmed that the two Volkswagen-owned brands were almost matched with the progress of their respective racers at the beginning of the year: "We were obviously in partnership with Porsche developing the car and therefore you can read where Porsche was - it's publicly accessible where the status of the car was," said Reinke.
Porsche began testing its Le Mans hypercar in January of this year, so Audi's hypercar was certainly no more than a couple of weeks from hitting the asphalt too. "Internally at Audi, it has been decided to focus on Formula 1, and therefore for everybody who had maybe an emotional link or a commitment to LMDh, that possibility was shortened," explained Reinke.
Perhaps the hypercar program could have extended the life of the Audi R8, which will soon be discontinued before an electric replacement arrives, but Audi may have decided that two disciplines would have been too expensive.
Meanwhile, Porsche is both continuing with endurance racing and actively pursuing an F1 entry, but it also has a lot more cash to play with. Porsche's legendary Carrera GT was the result of a failed racing program, so keep your fingers crossed that Audi's stillborn Le Mans entry ultimately leads to a special hypercar in a decade or less.