In this three-part series, published in the week before the season starts at the Hockenheimring, we have a look into the drivers, teams, and manufacturers of this season. Today we have a look at Audi and their drivers. Let’s get to know them!
So, Audi has been in the DTM for a long time already. In the early years, they competed from 1990 to 1993 with the Audi V8 Quattro DTM. They became champions twice, in 1990 and 1991 before taking a little break.
It seemed the series itself was done after 1996. But in 2000 they came back, under a slightly different name – Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters. Audi entered again, only not as a factory effort for the first few years – they supported the semi-private team, Abt. It was only in 2004 when they came back for real, with their Audi A4 DTM. Years later, when regulations changed, they started racing with the Audi RS5 DTM.
In total, Audi has won 10 championships, including the two from the earlier years. Names like Hans-Joachim Stuck, Laurent AÏello, Mattias Ekstrom and Timo Scheider have all been a part of Audi’s championship-winning formula.
The driver line-up from the Ingolstadt-based brand remains unchanged from last year. Never change a winning team they say.
In Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline we have Nico Mueller and Robin Frijns, the two youngest drivers of the Audi squad. Mueller has been in the series since 2014, whereas Frijns only debuted last season. Frijns took on Ekstrom’s seat, who decided to leave the series after seventeen seasons. Ekstrom went to WRX and has invited Mueller to join him as a guest. In 2017 he did two races, in 2018 only one. Frijns combines DTM with Formula E this year, a series which he’s more familiar with. Last Saturday, April 27th, he scored his maiden win in a crazy and chaotic race.
It’s an unchanged line-up for Audi Sport Team Phoenix as well, featuring Mike Rockenfeller and Loic Duval. Rockenfeller has been in the series for quite a while now, having made his debut in 2007 for Team Rosberg. In his fourth season, in 2010, he came to the team based in Meuspath. After one season with Abt Sportsline in 2011, in which Phoenix won the title with Martin Tomczyk, he came back to the team and he stayed there ever since.
Loic Duval joined the team in 2017, so this will be his 3rd year – unfortunately, he hasn’t been very successful yet. He’s got only one podium and one pole in his 38 races. Before he came to DTM, he was very successful in the FIA World Endurance Championship. He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2013 together with Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen, in the Audi R18. They went on to win the championship that year.
Last, but definitely not least, is Audi Sport Team Rosberg. They also have a champion on board – Rene Rast. In only his first year as a rookie, he scored 3 victories and claimed the title. Something not many would have seen coming. With only three points more, he beat the 2-time champion, Mattias Ekstrom. A very impressive debut season for the German.
Racing alongside Rast is Jamie Green. The Brit is, together with BMW’s Bruno Spengler, the most experienced driver on the grid, with most races driven. 177 in total.
Green entered the series in 2005 and competed for years in a Mercedes. Only in 2013, he made the switch to Audi, with Abt Sportsline. The next year he came to his current team.
Ironically enough, Green has never clinched the title. He has had chances, though. In his last year with Mercedes, 2012, he came in 3rd. In 2015, he wound up 2nd behind Pascal Wehrlein, and both in 2016 and 17 he ended in 3rd again.
For the first time, Audi has a customer team this year – WRT. This team is well-known for its successes in GT racing. Driving for the Belgian team are two rookies. Jonathan Aberdein, who was announced at the team’s launch event back in March. Last year, the 21-year-old South African competed in the European Formula 3 Championship, in which he finished in 12th place.
His teammate will be Pietro Fittipaldi – grandson of Emerson Fittipaldi. Fittipaldi is the official test driver for the Haas F1 team. He has experience in both single-seater racing and sports car series. Last year he was set to do a few races in the FIA World Endurance Championship, but a heavy crash at Spa-Francorchamps, which broke both of his legs, made that impossible. He had a successful surgery and is 100% back again.
After a successful week of testing at the Lausitzring, in which they topped the time sheets every day, Audi can look forward to an exciting season start. Will this be their year again?