Audi Sport may well be working on a new technological flagship hypercar model to sit above the R8 as the new pinnacle of the brand.
One of Audi Sport's chief competitors, Mercedes-AMG, is working on its Project One hypercar with formula one technology, and BMW has its i8 - a different kind of sports car with plug-in hybrid drivetrain. It makes sense, then, that Audi will follow suit with a model that will push its tech angle.
The brand has offered an R8 e-tron in limited numbers in the past, but it pulled the plug on that car in 2016.
So, could there be another, perhaps different electric or hybrid hypercar from Audi Sport, the sub-brand of the German company responsible for Audi RS and R8 models? There was an indication that it was contemplating such a model when company head Stephan Winkelmann spoke with CarAdvice at the Bathurst 12 Hour.
Speaking again with CarAdvice just a few weeks later at the 2017 Geneva motor show, Winkelmann stated he is working on thinking about the role the brand plays in a different light.
“We are looking for new angles,” Winkelmann said. “The lighthouse was the R8 of the first generation – this was the car not only for the sport team but for the entire Audi AG, and we're looking forward for something like this,” he said.
Is that an admission that the R8 – as good as it may be – isn’t what the brand thinks should be the ultimate model in the range? It seems so.
“We have ideas, but we are in a phase where we have normal combustion engines, hybrids, and there is the battery technology coming. So it’s very difficult to combine a really sporty car with the new technology. But this is what we have to achieve,” he said.
Reading between the lines, it seems clear that Winkelmann has been set a task to do something different. He was the head of Lamborghini up until he joined Audi Sport (formerly quattro GmbH) in 2016, and perhaps the board expects him to think outside the petrol-powered box.
Audi chairman of the board Rupert Stadler told Australian media that the company's plan to reposition Audi Sport includes "much more focus where customer racing is included".
The brand is selling race cars to the public (we're talking about cars like the Audi RS3 LMS), but we don’t think that’s exactly what Stadler was getting at.
"So, bringing technology from the racetrack to the street," Stadler said. "With Stephan Winkelmann, we have really a great leader and he knows how to position and how to brand Audi Sport and we see that respect very authentic. And of course we took some clear decisions because we see that there's growing business."