DTM has been dealt a body blow with the confirmation from Audi today that the reigning Champions will leave the Series at the end of 2020 as a factory presence.
In a statement from Audi, the company confirmed their continued commitment to both Formula E and their customer racing projects.
They also cite the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis as a factor in their decision, this the first major motorsport programme to fall citing the pandemic.
Whilst the exit of Audi, leaving only BMW as a factory effort in DTM, is a major blow it is not entirely unexpected in the wake of statements from senior company sources referencing a looming review and following on from the sister VW brand’s decision to cease all non-electric motorsport programmes.
Audi has thus far scored 23 championship titles, including eleven driver titles, plus 114 race victories, 345 podium finishes, 106 pole positions and 112 fastest laps in their time in DTM from 1990 to 1992 and then again from 2000 onwards.
The decision follows the departure of Mercedes AMG at the end of the 2018 season, and the decision from the R-Motorsport Aston Martin effort not to return after a single season in 2019.
That left the 2020 season with 16 confirmed entries, seven from BMW and its customers and nine from Audi and their customer teams.
With the 2020 season not yet started due to the ongoing COVID19 crisis, and the scope of Audi’s pull-out not yet clear (ie will 2020 cars be available to customers in 2021?) the decision leaves DTM, and Championship promoters ITR in serious difficulty.
Gerhard Berger, Chairman of ITR said:
“Today is a difficult day for motorsport in Germany and across Europe.
“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, and 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.
“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.”
Markus Duesmann, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG:
“Audi has shaped the DTM and the DTM has shaped Audi. This demonstrates what power lies in motorsport – technologically and emotionally.
“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.’” Formula E offers a very attractive platform for this. To complement it, we’re investigating other progressive motorsport formats for the future.”
Member of the Board for Development Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler:
“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.
“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. Successful motorsport is – and will continue to be – an important element of Audi’s DNA.”