Audi announced late last month that it will leave the DTM racing championship at the end of the 2020 season. That move took everyone by surprise, including BMW Motorsport which is last mohican in the racing series. Of course, this move also cast a doubt on the future of DTM. Furthermore, the news didn’t sit well with BMW board members. According to Motorsport, outgoing BMW chief of R&D Klaus Frohlich was equally surprised and disappointed by the Audi’s exit.
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“That surprised and disappointed me,” BMW board member Klaus Frohlich said of Audi’s exit to Süddeutsche.de. “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. “When Mercedes got out, [now-Daimler CEO] Ola Kallenius called me personally and explained how and why. It was all professional and appreciative. I missed that here at Audi.”
Audi Sport RS 5 DTM #33 (Audi Sport Team Rosberg), René Rast
So it wasn’t Audi who delivered the plans, but rather former F1 racer and current DTM boss Gerhard Berger who informed BMW prior to the Audi’s official announcement.
“And he, too, was not informed by Audi’s Board of Management but very late on the working level. Like other partners as well. “No matter what you decide – a company can do it any way it wants – with the DTM you communicate differently in terms of fairness and sportiness and don’t do it the way [Audi did].”
Audi’s departure took everyone by surprise, but in a way, it was expected. The DTM’s fame was on a descending path while at the same time Audi has been heavily invested in the Formula E championship.
Yet, Frohlich says that, even though BMW is also committed to Formula E and sustainable racing, there is still a future for the DTM. The current BMW development chief said that the goal was to transform the DTM to a hybrid series in 2022, and from 2025, as a fully electric touring car series.
Apparently the long term plan of DTM is to become global and electric at the same time. “Whether it was sustainable to cut off the DTM pillar and whether Formula E is more viable in the long term to communicate electric mobility – I put a question mark over that.”
The 2020 DTM championship has yet to begun due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s unclear whether there will be some racing taking place this year.