Audi has announced it will pull out of the German touring car series DTM at the conclusion of the 2020 season, focusing on Formula E and its customer racing programmes.
The company will therefore follow in the footsteps of Mercedes, which pulled out of the series at the conclusion of 2018, and Aston Martin, whose R-Motorsport-run DTM programme ended after a single season last year.
Audi’s longer-term future in the series was in serious doubt heading into the current season, and its Monday statement announcing the impending end of its DTM tenure also made reference to “the economic challenges due to the corona[virus] pandemic”.
“Audi has shaped the DTM and the DTM has shaped Audi. This demonstrates what power lies in motorsport – technologically and emotionally,” said Audi chairman Markus Duesmann.
“With this energy, we’re going to drive our transformation into a provider of sporty, sustainable electric mobility forward.
“Formula E offers a very attractive platform for this. To complement it, we’re investigating other progressive motorsport formats for the future.”
Audi has been part of the DTM since 2000, its first season under its current moniker, and its drivers have taken 11 series titles in that time.
It enjoyed an ultra-successful 2019 – sweeping the manufacturers’ and teams’ titles, as well as the drivers’ honours with Rene Rast.
Audi is due to be represented by nine cars on the 2020 DTM grid, with the six works entries complemented by the three Audi RS5 Turbo DTM cars run by its long-serving customer team WRT.
The only other manufacturer currently involved in the DTM is BMW, which means Audi’s exit will leave the series in a precarious position.
In a statement released by the DTM on Monday, chairman of series promoter ITR Gerhard Berger said Audi’s announcement marked “a difficult day for motorsport in Germany and across Europe”.
He also expressed his disappointment over the “short-term nature” of the announcement.
“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,” Berger said.
“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 want to create planning security for our participating teams, sponsors and everybody whose job depends on the DTM.”
Like every other major motorsport series, the DTM has had its 2020 calendar impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and its ’20 campaign is currently slated to begin at the Norisring in July.