The decision to withdraw Audi's cars from the penultimate round of the DTM at Barcelona was taken by the company chairman Rupert Stadler as a 'clear message for fair motorsport', although they insist they will remain committed to the championship.
Audi's key title protagonists Mattias Ekstrom and Martin Tomczyk were both eliminated in separate crashes involving Mercedes drivers in Spain, the championship leader taken out by Daniel La Rosa and the latter being punted out of the lead by Mika Hakkinen.
Neither car would finish and with fellow Abt Sportsline drivers, Tom Kristensen and Timo Scheider, as well as Mike Rockenfeller, also feeling the wrath of Mercedes drivers over the course of the race, the manufacturer ordered its remaining runners to pull into the pit lane to withdraw ten laps from end.
Labelling it as an attempt to promote fair racing heading into the final round of the season at Hockenheim, where Ekstrom and Tomczyk with battle it out with Bruno Spengler for the DTM title, Stadler claims Audi are still committed to the DTM, but that 'things will probably have to change'.
"What happened on the race track today was simply unacceptable,” he said. “We're proceeding from the assumption that emotions will cool down again before the Hockenheim race and that spectators will see a finale with fair sport. It's also clear that we continue to be committed to the DTM. But a few things will probably have to change."
The head of Audi Motorsport, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich was also furious at the actions of La Rosa, Hakkinen, Mathias Lauda and Spengler – who were involved in clashes at various stages – and believes they had no choice but to withdraw their cars in protest.
“We wanted to see a tough, but fair touring car race today. But we had to get the impression that the Mercedes drivers used every opportunity to eliminate our cars. This is not the style in which we want to conduct motorsport. We want to see tough and fair duels but nothing of the kind we had today.
“That's why we took the decision to withdraw all of our vehicles. That was not an easy decision, and it cost us points, and maybe even the title. But we wanted to send a clear message for fair motorsport."