It was revealed last week that Audi’s customer racing division will be downsized next year as the German automaker ends production of the R8 LMS GT3 and other racing models in its lineup. Audi’s factory driver pool will also be disbanded, affecting up to 14 drivers, while teams used to financial support from the brand will also be affected.
The decision on Audi’s impending departure was communicated to its 300 customers last Monday, following a meeting at board level.
A number of teams have since reacted badly to the news, with strong criticism aimed at Audi CEO Markus Duesmann, who is said to have directed all his resources towards his next Formula 1 project in 2026 at the expense of his existing programs in motorsport. .
“It was the flagship of Audi Sport and (its slogan) Vorsprung durch Technik,” said former Phoenix Racing boss Ernst Moser, whose factory Audi team enjoyed great success in the DTM and on the Nordschleife, on Motorsport.com’s sister site, Motorsport. -Total.com.
“For me, it’s also a personal matter of some people in the high decision-making spheres: before leaving, someone wants to do everything to ensure that the Formula 1 commitment is implemented. The people it affects don’t deserve to have a structure like that die.
“It’s his personal opinion and he doesn’t know why they want to do Formula 1 now and nothing else.
“You could have let it continue with small budgets, because customers and their partners pay for almost everything themselves.
“But if this little plant continues to grow, it could possibly be dangerous for the Formula 1 project. That’s why it is no longer watered and dried.
“That’s my impression: everything that could possibly still prevent the Formula 1 project (from happening) is now destroyed.”
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Vosse not impressed
Vincent Vosse, WRT team manager
Photo by: Alexandre Trienitz
WRT team boss Vincent Vosse, who switched to BMW with his team last year after winning several titles and race victories with Audi, also slammed Deusemann’s decision to reduce his involvement in customer racing. .
“I think that’s exactly what’s happening now, that’s exactly what they want to happen,” Vosse told Motorsport-Total.com
“That I don’t doubt. It’s not something that just happened now. It’s something that was decided years ago, I would say 1.5 maybe 1.5 years ago. two years is just the impact of the decision that was made two years ago.
“When Markus Duesmann started, he had decided to get out of the DTM Class 1. It was the first step. But very soon he also decided to stop motorsport in general and put all his efforts into Formula 1 .”
“I guess when Markus Duesmann arrived and decided to stop DTM Class 1, that was the first step.
“But very soon he decided to quit motorsport in general and put all his efforts into Formula 1.
“If they win in Formula 1, everyone will very quickly forget what happened. But I have my doubts.”
Vosse also believes a double-header was easily possible, as Mercedes proved by winning eight consecutive F1 titles while continuing to play an important role in GT3 racing.
“Now they focus on Formula 1, but it’s not because they do (F1),” he said.
“I mean Mercedes has won eight world championships racing with customers. It’s a joke. I mean. This thing is just a joke.
“Formula 1 has nothing to do with customer racing.
“The costs are not high and they were very happy to be able to use it for 12 or 14 years.”
Attempto team boss Arkin Aka, who competes with his Audi team in the DTM and GT World Challenge Europe, also cannot understand the decision to focus solely on F1.
“Motorsport has to be broad,” he told Motorsport-Total.com.
“Porsche led by example and the Mercedes brand does not only do Formula 1, but also GT racing. They all bring new models, so I wonder: why doesn’t Audi do that?”
“When you know that Audi was one of the most successful brands, it’s hard to understand.
#32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS evo II GT3: Ricardo Feller, Dries Vanthoor, Charles Weerts
Photo by: SRO
Full exit avoided
Audi originally planned to close its customer racing arm completely, but a decision was then made to continue providing technical support and spare parts until 2032, ensuring teams can race its cars in the categories. GT3, GT4 and TCR.
When asked if that gives hope, WRT’s Vosse replied: “I hope so, I hope for them (employees).
“But of course, without shutting down completely, they have to at least respect the customers they have and they have to do that. They still have to sell parts.”
Moser added: “You have to stick to your contracts. When you sell cars, you have to provide a few years of service and spare parts.”
Duesmann will step down as CEO of Audi from September 1, with his place to be taken over by Gernot Dollner.
Asked if Dollner could reassess the situation and make further changes to Audi Customer Sport,
Moser said: “I’m definitely happy there’s a change. And I’d love for it to happen, but I have no idea which direction it’s going to go.
“Name and reputation ruined in a few months.”
Aka added: “Duesmann hasn’t done much good for the Audi brand. Those visions he has (regarding electric mobility) were really just visions that can’t be implemented. hope they realized they should actually listen to the customer.”
Vosse believes Audi’s high-profile exits from Class 1 DTM, Formula E, customer racing, as well as the scrapping of its LMDh program, undo the work previously done to build the Audi Sport brand.
“I am sad for those who built the Audi Sport name, like Dr Ullrich, Dieter Gass, Romolo Liebchen, Chris Reinke, Siegfried Krausem, who built the Audi Sport name, have achieved so much,” he said. he declared.
“That name or what they did is being shattered in little more than a few months. So to destroy this incredible reputation that these people have built, I feel sorry and bad for them.
“Killing that reputation quickly is a disgrace.”
Moser described current Audi customer racing director Chris Reinke as a “passenger”, adding: “I’m sure he made his 100th presentation, but nobody cares. That kind of thing ruin you.”
Audi continues to fund its factory commitment to the Dakar Rally, but it is expected that its rally-raid program with the RS Q e-tron could end at the end of the 2024 season.
So that would leave no active projects under Audi Sport boss Rolf Michl.
Audi’s F1 project is hosted by a new company, Audi Formula Racing GmbH, which is officially a subsidiary of Audi Sport GmbH. But F1 chief executive Adam Baker reports directly to Audi chief development officer Oliver Hoffmann.
Mattia Drudi, Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3
Photo by: Alexandre Trienitz