DTM chief Gerhard Berger admits Audi’s decision to walk away from the series at the end of the 2020 season ‘worsens’ a difficult situation after it left BMW as the sole remaining entry on the grid.

The Ingolstadt marque has been a stalwart of the German-based touring car series since it was revived in 2000 but yesterday [Monday] announced it was realigning its motorsport programme to focus on Formula E and customer racing.

While the company stressed the decision is partly based on a concerted push into the electric automotive sector – thus making Formula E more relevant – it admits the financial pressures brought about by the coronavirus pandemic is also a factor.

The move leaves DTM’s future uncertain. The series was already reeling from the exit of Mercedes-Benz at the end of 2018, while an ambitious attempt to add Aston Martins onto the grid failed when the team running them withdraw after just one uncompetitive season. Matters haven’t been helped by the coronavirus wreaking havoc on this year’s racing schedule.

Audi’s withdrawal means BMW is left as the sole remaining participant, with a statement revealing it too is now monitoring the situation.

“We as the BMW Group were surprised by the announced Audi exit from the DTM,” BMW’s statement read.

“Together with the ITR, we have always fought passionately for the future and further development of the DTM. We will now assess the situation and possible consequences from all angles.”

It’s a sorry situation that ITR – which runs the DTM – boss Berger admits creates problems for the series’ future, but he is determined to find a solution.

“Today is a difficult day for motorsport in Germany and across Europe,” said Berger in a statement. “I deeply regret Audi’s decision to withdraw from the DTM after the 2020 season.

“While we respect the board’s position, the short-term nature of this announcement presents ITR, our partner BMW and our teams with a number of specific challenges.

“This decision worsens the situation, and the future of the DTM now very much depends on how our partners and sponsors react to this decision. Nevertheless, I fully expect Audi to undertake its planned exit properly, responsibly and in full partnership with ITR.

“My commitment remains to the year ahead, and to ensuring we provide our hundreds of thousands of fans with a thrilling and competitive season,” enthused the Austrian. “But, as soon as possible, I also want to create planning security for our participating teams, sponsors and everybody whose job depends on the DTM.”

It's been a rocky couple of years for ITR after Mercedes withdrew its entries in 2018, while the series also lost the highly regarded supporting FIA Formula 3 European Championship to the F1 race package in 2019.

A planned amalgamation of regulations with the Japanese-based Super GT series that would potentially allow Honda, Lexus and Nissan machinery into the series hasn’t gathered pace beyond the ‘Dream Race’ event that combined the two series’ at the tail-end of 2019.

The latest iteration of DTM has run from 2000, four years after the series was disbanded due to spiralling costs when it morphed into the International Touring Car Championship.

 

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