Audi is counting on strong teamwork skills as it bids to wrest the DTM trophy back away from rival Mercedes this year, with drivers predicting less of a gap between old machinery and new over the forthcoming campaign.

The Ingolstadt marque's four 2007-spec A4s - to be fielded by the crack Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline squad - will be piloted by 'Mr Le Mans' Tom Kristensen, former series champion Mattias Ekstr?m, Martin Tomczyk and Timo Scheider. 2006 cars will be raced by DTM veteran Christian Abt and ex-GP2 ace Alexandre Pr?mat under the banner of Audi Sport Team Phoenix, with Audi Sport Team Rosberg running newcomers and sportscar regulars Mike Rockenfeller and Lucas Luhr in similar machines. The Futurecom TME customer outfit, finally, is entering a pair of 2005-model cars for Vanina Ickx and single-seater refugee Adam Carroll.

To provide a more level playing field, year-old machines will initially compete with 10kg less weight than the new designs, while the 2005 models run 30kg lighter.

"I'm convinced the differences between the individual cars this year will be even smaller than last year," asserted Kristensen, Audi's leading light in 2006. "The regulations ensure that the air in the DTM gets more and more rarefied every year. The smallest of mistakes in qualifying can make the difference between the front and the middle of the grid, so the drivers of the older cars also have good chances."

"Nobody has ever been champion in the DTM without the support of his team-mates," added Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. "We attach great value to having drivers in the team who are not only fast but who also get on well with one another."