Audi internal restructuring casts doubt on DTM future

A forthcoming internal restructuring at Audi could put the German manufacturer’s involvement in the DTM at risk beyond the 2020 season, has learned.

At the Ingolstadt-based company, the board of directors is set to decide over the next few months whether to stay in the DTM after the end of this year.

A continuation of both the marque’s DTM and Formula E programmes is considered very unlikely for cost reasons, which means its future in the tin-top category could hinge on ending its involvement in FE, also regarded as being highly improbable.

Audi’s influential sales and marketing director Hildegard Wortmann is committed to FE, where the brand has been present since the series’ inception in 2014. Additionally, electric mobility has been defined as a group-wide strategy by Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess.

Volkswagen Motorsport announced last November that it would terminate all internal combustion engine-based motorsport activities, signifying the end of its FIA World Touring Car Cup presence, with sister brand Audi following suit by ending its works WTCR involvement.

As of April 1, Audi’s new Chairman of the Board of Management Markus Duesmann, formerly head of development at the BMW Sauber Formula 1 team, will take over from Bram Schot. Duesman also has a positive attitude towards FE.

On top of that, starting on July 1, Audi’s factory motorsport programmes, which includes DTM, will no longer be assigned to the development department headed by board member Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler but to Audi Sport GmbH.

This is relevant because otherwise Rothenpieler could have acted as a counterweight to Wortmann and argued that the DTM is still absolutely necessary for Audi.

But Audi Sport GmbH, based in Neuburg, has two managing directors – Oliver Hoffmann and Julius Seebach – with equal rights who are not members of the board of management and therefore have less influence.

Wortmann’s point of view is of great importance at Audi in this matter because motorsport is a marketing tool which is related to sales figures. And after the VW ‘dieselgate’ scandal, Audi is currently putting a lot of money and effort into building its e-tron electric fleet.

If the company from Ingolstadt actually decides to leave the DTM, it would be a heavy blow for the  touring car series, in which BMW would be the only manufacturer left following the recent exit of Aston Martin licensee R-Motorsport.

Audi is currently responsible for running eight cars in the DTM, including two fielded by customer squad WRT, accounting for more than half of the 15-car grid that is expected for the 2020 season unless BMW opts to run an eighth car.

Contacted by regarding Audi’s restructuring and its future in the DTM, a company spokesperson commented: “Our motorsport programmes are normally decided in autumn for the following season. The year 2020 is known with Formula E and DTM.

“As in the past, we will not be reporting ‘water levels’, we will only announce decisions. However, this will still take some time.”

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