Audi’s decision to turn their back on DTM, the German Touring Car Championship was surprising and disappointing, says BMW board member Klaus Fröhlich.
On April 27, Audi made a shocking announcement regarding its commitments to DTM, confirming its withdrawal from the German Touring Car Championship as of 2021. After Mercedes left the series at the end of 2018, only two manufacturers, Audi and BMW contested in DTM. With Audi’s unexpected departure from the scene, the series now faces a future with the Münich-based manufacturer as the sole manufacturer.
The series was founded in 1984, bearing the name of Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft. After this first incarnation was folded in 1996, DTM returned in 2000 with the initials standing for Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters.
During the 20-year history of the second incarnation, five different manufacturers represented themselves. Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Opel were all present when the series restarted in 2000. The Rüsselsheim-based carmaker left the scene in 2005, leaving the two other premium manufacturers contesting for the championship titles. BMW joined DTM in 2012.
Ending a 18-year history, Mercedes-Benz departed from the series at the end of 2018, but the next season saw Aston Martin make its debut in Germany’s leading touring car series. However, just after a single season, the British luxury sports car manufacturer announced its departure, leaving Audi and BMW battle it out on the race tracks.
Klaus Fröhlich said that Audi’s exit left BMW surprised, calling the rival’s shocking withdrawal “unsportsmanlike”. The German thinks that their rivals could have handled the situation in a more elegant way.
"That surprised and disappointed me. And I find it not only astonishing, but also unsportsmanlike to drop out and not talk to us as a second partner before. It really blew me away,” he is quoted as saying by Suddeutsche.de.
"When Mercedes got out, [now-Daimler CEO] Ola Kallenius called me personally and explained why. It was all professional and appreciative. I missed that here at Audi. Immediately before the public announcement on April 27, DTM boss Gerhard Berger had informed me about the exit plans, I'm in close contact with him.”
Audi explained its sudden exit with its intention to focus solely on electric cars. Since DTM is set to introduce electric technology to keep the series interesting and road-relevant for manufacturers in the coming years, Fröhlich thinks there could be other reasons behind Audi’s departure.
'We're going into Formula E for electric cars instead of staying in the DTM' precisely because the DTM wants to become fully electric by 2025.
Following Audi’s departure, DTM boss Gerhard Berger disclosed that he was informed by the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer’s plan only a few days before the official announcement. The former Ferrari and McLaren F1 driver also added that he will work flat-out to ensure the continuity of the series beyond 2020.
“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,” he said.