Having re-signed a couple of big names and added a new driver in the past few weeks, Audi has made some subtle tweaks to the line-up within its camp ahead of the 2014 DTM championship.
With 101 days to go to the first race of the new campaign, reigning champion Mike Rockenfeller learned that former title-winner Timo Scheider would be his new team-mate as all three Audi teams were realigned for its title defence.
Rockenfeller moves from hunter to hunted this season as, for the first time in his career, the 30-year old will be starting with the #1 on his car. He will be in good hands at Audi Sport Team Phoenix, which has now taken a couple of crowns, but will be tested by his new partner, as 35-year old countryman Scheider - who won back-to-back crowns in 2008 and 2009 - switches to Ernst Moser's squad after seven years as part of Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline.
“I had a great time with Abt and am leaving the squad with a tear in my eye,” the veteran admitted, “On the other hand, I'm looking forward to driving for the outfit that has provided the DTM champion twice in the past three years. Besides that, I know the team really well from my days before Audi.”
Scheider swaps cockpits with Miguel Molina, who, after two years with Phoenix, is returning to the team with which he celebrated his greatest successes in the DTM. In his debut season with Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, the Spaniard was 2010 rookie of the year and, a year later, twice took his side of Hans-Jürgen Abt's squad to top spot on the grid and clinched his first podium result.
Italian Edoardo Mortara also moves to Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline. Having taken two victories in 2012, the first year of the current DTM regulations, the 27-year old suffered a disappointing 2013, and has a burning desire to return to the battle for victory this year. Two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekström remains with the team for his 14th DTM season, with French youngster Adrien Tambay completing the line-up for the most successful Audi DTM team in history.
Audi Sport Team Rosberg, meanwhile, is tackling the 2014 season with a completely new driver roster, blending a combination of seasoned and young campaigners. Jamie Green will spearhead the squad of ex-F1 world champion Keke Rosberg and team director Arno Zensen but, with Filipe Albuquerque switching to Audi's Le Mans programme, the Briton will be joined by Audi's latest signing, Nico Müller.
“During the winter, we not only took a very close look at our RS5 DTM in search of optimisation potential, but also went through various options with the three teams and the drivers in order to come up with as strong a line-up as possible,” Dieter Gass, head of DTM at Audi Sport, explained, “Following extensive discussions, all the parties involved feel that we've found the best solution.
"On the one hand, we're banking on continuity, as we're going to have seven of our previous drivers on the DTM grid again in 2014. On the other hand, we feel that a change now and then won't hurt. That's why we're convinced that we're well-set for the new season with our modified line-up.”
“Audi has always been committed to continuity with the drivers, as well as to a consistent approach of working with young talents," head of Audi Motorsport, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, concurred, "That's why it's nice that we managed to retain all of our previous DTM drivers for Audi – including our three DTM champions.
"In Nico Müller, we've got a promising youngster as a new member of our squad, who will probably attract a few fans from Switzerland to the DTM. Plus, we're already very eager to see how Timo, Edoardo, Miguel and Jamie will be gelling with their new teams.”