This multi-coloured projectile is Audi’s new Formula E car, marking the German manufacturer’s first steps as an official manufacturer team in the electric racing championship.
Unveiled at Audi Sport’s racing HQ at Neuberg in Germany, the car is called the e-tron FE04.
The e-tron part of the name is Audi’s now-established brand name for electrified powertrains – an electric road car called the Audi e-tron (concept pictured below, alongside the racing car) is planned for launch in 2018, hence the move to use Formula E as a marketing platform. Audi plans to have 20-plus models in its range that are electrified in some way, whether hybrid or pure EV, by 2025.
Meanwhile, the FE04 name refers to the fact that this will actually be the team’s fourth season in Formula E. Formerly the Abt Sportsline team, the outfit has previously been sponsored by Audi, but remained an independent entry – for the upcoming season Audi has taken the team fully on board and ramped up its investment to become an official factory squad.
A catchy team name
The team is officially called Team Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler to give it its full mouthful of a title – referencing the Abt outfit who will continue to handle much of the cars’ operation, and components partner Schaeffler.
Audi the first German car manufacturer to enter Formula E with a factory team
Audi will be joined by Mercedes and Porsche on the grid from 2019.
Porsche announced it will quit the top LMP1 Le Mans racing class at the end of 2017 to focus on a Formula E entry in 2019, to help promote its upcoming Mission E electric road car.
Likewise, Mercedes-Benz has announced it is leaving the DTM German touring car championship at the end of the 2018 season to fund a Formula E entry from 2019 onwards.
The potential power of Formula E as a marketing platform is currently attractive to car makers looking to associate themselves with technology perceived to be modern and environmentally friendly.
Jaguar has fielded an official team since 2016, and Citroen/DS has backed a team since 2015. Renault has been involved with the series as a whole since its inception and backs the e.Dams team.
More open technical regs in Formula E for this season
Although many aspects of Formula E car development is restricted – all cars use the same Dallara chassis, for example – teams are now allowed more freedom to develop their cars’ powertrain (the motor, transmission and control software), along with parts of the suspension.
Audi’s car will use an all-new powertrain, with a one-gear transmission.
Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass says: ‘Together with our technology partner Schaeffler, we have developed a completely new powertrain. You can immediately tell this by looking at the new carbon housing of the powertrain. The car also sounds different because we’re pursuing new avenues in technology.’
In the boss’s chair: Allan McNish
Scottish racing driver Allan McNish, a three-time Le Mans winner and lynchpin of Audi’s LMP1 success, will be team principal. McNish retired from racing as a driver at the end of 2013, but has remained heavily involved with Audi Sport since.
Who are the Audi Formula E team drivers?
Current champ Lucas di Grassi from Brazil and German Daniel Abt. The latter will have extra red bits on his car to help tell the two drivers apart on track.
Both drivers are entering their fourth season in Formula E.
When does the 2017/2018 Formula E season start?
At Hong Kong on December 2 2017. The Formula E season runs more like an academic year than a calendar year.
Audi’s new car will make its on-track debut on Friday 29 September at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, before going to the official Formula E pre-season test at Valencia.[“Source-carmagazine”]