Audi will leave the DTM as a factory team at the end of the 2020 season, as the champion manufacturer has opted to not extend its factory stay in the touring car series for an 18th season.
The Ingolstadt marque is one of only two manufacturer entries in the DTM at present, following the withdrawal of Mercedes-Benz at the end of the 2018 season, with BMW its only other OEM rival.
The German series has been plunged into a crisis after the late withdrawal of the four R Motorsport Aston Martin entries for 2020, which had only joined the grid at the start of 2019.
The Aston Martin entry had in itself been seen as an important step for the series in filling the void left by Mercedes. Audi’s withdrawal now leaves BMW as the sole manufacturer entrant beyond the end of 2020.
The move from Audi comes as part of its effort to have a ‘carbon-neutral footprint’, prompting the brand to realign its motorsport program. Audi is heavily involved in the all-electric Formula E series.
The decision to withdraw from the DTM has been accelerated by the economic challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
A statement from Audi stated that “the management board of AUDI AG made this decision also in light of the economic challenges due to the corona[virus] pandemic and communicated it to ITR e.V., the DTM’s umbrella organization, this Monday.
“Consequently, the successful involvement in Formula E and in customer racing will be taking center stage in Audi’s future motorsport activities.”
Markus Duesmann, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, said that the manufacturer was looking for more ‘progressive’ motorsport options going forward.
“Audi has shaped the DTM and the DTM has shaped Audi. This demonstrates what power lies in motorsport – technologically and emotionally,” said Duesmann. “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.”
Audi has scored 23 championship titles in the DTM, including 11 drivers’ titles, 114 victories, 345 podium finishes, 106 pole positions and 112 fastest laps, prior to the start of the 2020 season.
Audi has been present in the DTM as a factory entrant from 1990 to 1992, and again from 2004 to 2020, whilst it was represented between 2000 and 2003 by the privateer Abt team.
“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,” added Member of the Board for Development Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler.
“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.”
ITR Chairman Gerhard Berger released a statement at the same time which was critical of the relatively short notice that Audi, as a major stakeholder in the DTM, had given the series.
In comparison, when Mercedes announced its exit in 2017 it gave the DTM over a year in order to plan for its departure.
“Today is a difficult day for motorsport in Germany and across Europe,” said Berger. “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.”