Audi and Mercedes-Benz have safeguarded the future of the DTM by agreeing to commit to the series beyond 2006, ending speculation that other commitments could see them quit and put the popular championship in jeopardy.
Announced ahead of the fifth round of this year's championship at the Norisring, Audi and Mercedes' motorsport directors, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich and Norbert Haug, confirmed that they will be support the championship in the long-term.
The deal comes after the series was reduced to just two brands when Opel quit at the end of 2005, prompting suggestions the championship could not survive with just Audi and Mercedes-Benz. However, the rumours were duly unfounded when a field of 20 cars lined up at the season opener at Hockenheim - the same amount that lined up in 2005.
Attracting healthy audiences, particularly in its spiritual German home, as well as world-class drivers such as Mika Hakkinen and Jean Alesi, the DTM has defied the lack of interest from works manufacturers to prove an immense success since it was resurrected in 2000.
Indeed, 2004 champions Audi had been rumoured as quitting following their decision to pursue sportscar racing further with the new R10 TDI. However, Dr. Ullrich insists the DTM embodies everything the brand stands for and was happy to pledge their future.
“The DTM is the most popular international touring car series, the pinnacle in touring car racing. This suits the Audi brand in an excellent way. For a manufacturer, the DTM provides excellent value for money. That means: you get a lot in return for your resources. It has shown that the spectators want to see spectacular touring cars at the highest level and that is what the DTM is offering them.”
Haug reiterated Dr. Ullrich's claims, suggesting the sheer popularity of the DTM made it an easy decision for Mercedes to remain.
“During the course of the last six years the DTM has developed remarkably. The series offers the spectator interesting sport and an attractive programme. An increasing number of visitors at the race tracks and high TV ratings prove that the concept to focus on the spectators worked out well.
“The technical regulations provide the basis for justifiable cost and the media coverage guarantees an unequalled cost/performance ratio. Thus the DTM remains an excellent stage for the premium brand Mercedes-Benz. By confirming our engagement for next year together with our competitor Audi today, we provide for consistency of the series and planning reliability for our partners.”