Rast, Muller join Audi's LMDh programme for 2023

Three-time DTM champion Rene Rast and series frontrunner Nico Muller have been announced as Audi’s first two drivers for its return to Le Mans 24 Hours in 2023.

Rast became Audi’s most successful driver in the DTM when he clinched a third title in four years in 2020, beating Muller to the crown after a season-long battle between the pair.

The German driver switched to Formula E in 2021 and finished on the podium in Puebla, but will return to the DTM next year before embarking on a full campaign in endurance racing in 2023 with Audi.

Meanwhile, Muller joined Audi’s factory roster in the DTM in 2014 and has been one of the manufacturer’s top performers in recent years, finishing second to Rast in both 2019 and ‘20.

Following Audi’s works exit from the DTM this year, the Swiss driver stayed on in the championship with its support, switching to Rast’s former outfit Team Rosberg and scoring a podium finish at Monza.

Both Rast and Muller will remain within Audi’s fold for at least two years and play a crucial role in development of Audi’s LMDh car ahead of the marque's highly anticipated return to the top echelon of sportscar racing in 2023.

“Rene Rast and Nico Muller are currently among the best drivers on the market and I am very happy that we are going into the future with both of them,” said Audi Sport boss Julius Seebach.

“Besides their performance on the track, they also have what it takes to take a team forward. It's great to see Rene back in the DTM. 

“At the same time, Rene and Nico are the first two drivers with whom we are preparing our return to Le Mans.”

Porsche Motorsport LMDh

Porsche Motorsport LMDh

Photo by: Porsche Motorsport

Audi will contest both Le Mans and Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona as part of a wider sportscar programme that is expected to include the FIA World Endurance Championship and potentially the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Both Audi and sister marque Porsche have decided to take the LMDh route over the more expensive LM Hypercar option pursued by the likes of Toyota, Glickenhaus, Peugeot and Ferrari, and will build their cars around the next generation Multimatic LMP2 chassis.

Muller expects Audi to run an intensive testing programme next year before the yet-to-be-named successor to the R18 makes its race debut at Daytona in January 2023.

“Knowing Audi, there is also the demand that when you go to Le Mans, you fight for victory.” Muller told Motorsport.com’s sister title Motorsport-Total.com

“Of course you can't face it like in the past, there's a BoP and so on, but you still have to be sorted. You can't do two or three test days beforehand and then think: 'Now we're going to rock the boat'. I think it's going to be an intensive year of testing.”

Muller is not a complete stranger to prototype racing, having contested the Shanghai round of the WEC in 2017 in G-Drive’s Oreca LMP2 car.

The Swiss driver also feels his experience of driving Class One DTM cars will come handy on his step up to LMDH machinery in 2023.

“Very similar, actually,” Muller said when asked to compare LMDh with last-generation DTM cars. “That's something I think a lot of people don't necessarily see. But the construction of the car is not that different. Sure, there is a body over this DTM car, which looks like a touring car. But it's not a touring car.

“And also, how such a car drives is relatively similar. So with the LMDh I don't know, but I've driven LMP2 cars. They drive very similarly. That's why I think the experience you have there and in tyre management, because Class 1 had proper tyre management, not like here now, I think that's already valuable.”

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