JUNE 19, 2006
Audi diesel wins Le Mans - now what?
Audi won the Le Mans 24 Hours on Sunday with a diesel-powered R10 sportscar. This will be the cause of much rejoicing at Audi but when the hullaballoo dies down the company will have to face up to the fact that the law of diminishing returns will soon kick in and winning more races with diesels is not going to make a huge difference to the sale of Audi vehicles, beyond consolidating the reputation that the company enjoys for its diesel technologies.
The company needs to drive up sales in the luxury car market where it is in competition with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and (increasingly) Lexus. This is an important market segment as it is where big profits are made and it is logical to assume that Audi's parent company Volkswagen will eventually make the step into F1. Now is a very good time to switch into Grand Prix racing as the FIA is making life easier for the manufacturers outside F1 by forcing through new rules to restrict development and cut costs. Some of those involved in the sport do not like this but some of those outside may now consider things differently. In the case of Volkswagen, such a move would be easy as it already has strong marketing links with Red Bull, a company that has two F1 teams waiting for a manufacturer engine deal.
We would not be at all surprised to hear of work beginning on F1 engine projects at Ingolstadt in preparation for an F1 assault in 2008, 2009 or 2010. Because of the cost-cutting plans the F1 job market will soon be flooded with F1 engine designers and Audi would do well to pick up some of the refugees as this would provide a quick and relatively cheap way to get engines needed to do the job in F1.
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