On Monday afternoon, Audi announced they will be leaving the series at the end of 2020. As a result of this, BMW will be the only manufacturer remaining.
After speculations earlier this year, Audi has confirmed that the 2020 season will be their last in the German touring car series. In the statement from Audi, they say “the management of the board of Audi AG made this decision also in light of the economic challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic and communicated it to ITR e.V., the DTM’s umbrella organization.” They will now focus on the fully-electric racing series ABB FIA Formula E and customer racing.
“Audi has shaped the DTM and the DTM has shaped Audi. This demonstrates what power lies in motorsport – technologically and emotionally,” says Markus Duesmann, Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi AG.
“With this energy, we’re going to drive our transformation into a provider of sporty, sustainable electric mobility forward. That’s why we’re also focusing our efforts on the race track and systematically competing for tomorrow’s ‘Vorsprung’.”
Audi Sport has been hugely successful in the DTM. The manufacturer competed for 17 seasons as a full works entrant – starting in 2004. Before that, they participated in the ‘old DTM’ between 1990-1992 and between 2000-2003, they were represented as the privateer team Abt.
In total, they scored 23 championship titles, of which 11 driver titles. 114 victories, 345 podium finishes, 106 pole positions and 112 fastest laps. In the current era, Laurent Aiello, Mattias Ekstrom, Timo Scheider, Martin Tomczyk, Mike Rockenfeller and Rene Rast managed to win the title.
The 2019 season has been the most successful in the company’s history and they hope to continue this success in 2020. It would be a fitting farewell to the series and its fans should they defend their three titles. “We’re hoping that this currently difficult situation will improve soon and that we’ll still be able to contest a few DTM races this year,” says Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler, Member of the Board for Development.
“The fans would deserve this, and so would the ITR, our drivers as well as our teams and partners. Who will now have adequate advance notice to reposition themselves for the time after 2020. Succesful motorsport is – and will continue to be – an important element of Audi’s DNA.”
The German touring car series is now under serious threat. Mercedes-Benz withdrew at the end of 2018 wanting to put their full focus on Formula E and Formula 1. This left the series with only two manufacturers. But, DTM managed to find a solution in R-Motorsport Aston Martin. The Swiss team joined the 2019 grid with four cars, however, they decided to not continue for 2020. With Audi’s announced departure, that leaves BMW as the sole manufacturer for 2021.
Gerhard Berger, ITR Chairman, released a statement saying he admits the future of the series is entering a critical phase. “Today is a difficult day for motorsport in Germany and across Europe.” He continues: “I deeply regret Audi’s decision to withdraw from the DTM after the 2020 season. While we respect the board’s position, the short-term nature of this announcement presents ITR, our partner BMW and our teams with a number of specific challenges.”
“Given our common association and the particular difficulties we all face during the COVID-19 pandemic, we would have hoped for a more united approach. This decision worsens the situation. The future of the DTM now very much depends on how our partners and sponsors react to this decision. Nevertheless, I fully expect Audi to undertake its planned exit properly, responsibly and in full partnership with ITR.”
Finally, he commented: “My commitment remains to the year ahead, and to ensuring we provide our hundreds of thousands of fans with a thrilling and competitive season. But, as soon as possible, I also want to create planning security for our participating teams, sponsors and everybody whose job depends on the DTM.”
The whole motorsport world is delayed because of the COVID-19 situation. DTM has already revised its calendar, however, it is likely it will change again as both Germany and the Netherlands have banned major events until 31st August. If the season manages to get underway, we will see 16 cars on the grid. Nine Audis – of which three fielded by their customer team WRT – and seven BMWs.