Last week, it came to light that Audi intends to scale down its customer racing division next year, putting an end to the production of R8 LMS GT3 and other competitive models within its portfolio. The restructuring will disband Audi’s works driver pool, affecting up to 14 drivers, while teams that rely on financial backing from the brand will also face repercussions.
This information regarding Audi’s imminent departure was shared with its 300 customers last Monday, subsequent to a board-level discussion.
Several teams have responded negatively to this announcement, launching severe criticisms at Audi CEO Markus Duesmann, who appears to be redirecting all resources towards the company’s future Formula 1 project in 2026, compromising its current motorsport programs.
“The Audi Sport flagship and its motto ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ represented something special,” said former Phoenix Racing boss Ernst Moser, whose team tasted significant success with Audi in both DTM and Nordschleife, while speaking to F1 Flow.com’s sister website F1 Flow-Total.com.
“In my view, certain people in the higher echelons of decision-making have personal agendas to secure the Formula 1 commitment before they depart.
“The individuals affected by these changes shouldn’t have to watch such a system crumble.
“His is just a personal viewpoint and he can’t comprehend why the company wants to focus solely on Formula 1 now.
“Even with minimal budgets, the program could have been continued since customers and their partners bear the majority of the costs.
“However, the continued growth of this small plant could potentially pose a threat to the Formula 1 project. This is probably why it’s being left to dry up and wither.
“My interpretation is that anything that could potentially hamper the Formula 1 project is being deliberately dismantled.”
WRT team leader, Vincent Vosse, who last year transitioned to BMW with his team after achieving multiple victories and titles with Audi, also expressed his dissatisfaction over Duesmann’s choice to reduce its involvement in customer racing.
“This is precisely what they desired to happen,” Vosse shared with F1 Flow-Total.com. “I have no doubts.
“This isn’t a sudden development. The decision was taken approximately one and a half to two years ago. It’s merely the consequence of a resolution that was reached two years prior.
“I believe that when Markus Duesmann first arrived and decided to halt the DTM Class 1, that was the initial step.
“However, he quickly resolved to stop motorsport in general and focus all efforts on Formula 1.
“If they achieve victory in Formula 1, everyone will soon forget what transpired. But I am skeptical.”
Vosse also maintains that a dual program, such as the one Mercedes has executed by winning eight successive F1 championships while still prominently participating in GT3 racing, could have been feasible.
“Now they’re concentrating on Formula 1, but it’s not because they’re participating in it,” he said.
“Mercedes, for instance, have won eight world championships while simultaneously conducting customer racing.
“It’s laughable. I mean, the notion that Formula 1 has any correlation to customer racing is absurd.
“The expenses aren’t significant, and they were more than content to make use of it for the past 12 or 14 years.”
Arkin Aka, the Attempto team manager who competes with his Audi team in DTM and GT World Challenge Europe, is also perplexed by the decision to focus exclusively on F1.
“F1 Flow must be diverse,” he told F1 Flow-Total.com.
“Porsche and Mercedes have set a standard, not solely focusing on Formula 1 but also GT racing. They continue to introduce new models, which prompts me to ask: why isn’t Audi doing the same?
“Given Audi’s record as one of the most triumphant brands, the decision is difficult to comprehend.”
Full Exit Avoided
Initially, Audi intended to completely terminate its customer racing division, but later opted to continue offering technical support and spare parts until 2032, enabling teams to race its cars in the GT3, GT4, and TCR categories.
When asked if this offered a glimmer of hope, WRT’s Vosse responded, “I hope so, for their [the employees] sake.
“But of course, they cannot completely shut down; they have to respect their existing customers and continue to sell parts.”
Moser chimed in, “You have to honour your contracts. When you sell cars, you are obligated to provide several years of service and spare parts.”
From September 1, Duesmann will be stepping down as Audi’s CEO, and his role will be assumed by Gernot Dollner.
When asked if Dollner could review the situation and introduce further modifications to Audi Customer Sport, Moser stated, “I am genuinely pleased that a change is taking place. And I would like it to happen, but I have no clue which direction it will take.
“Reputation and brand tarnished in a matter of months.”
Aka added, “Duesmann hasn’t done any favors for the Audi brand. His grand ideas [regarding electric mobility] were merely unattainable visions. I hope they have now recognized the need to pay heed to their customers.”
Vosse believes Audi’s high-profile exits from Class 1 DTM, Formula E, customer racing, plus the cancellation of its LMDh program, effectively undo the efforts previously invested in building the Audi Sport brand.
“I feel sorry for those who have helped build the Audi Sport name, like Dr Ullrich, Dieter Gass, Romolo Liebchen, Chris Reinke, Siegfried Krausem. They accomplished so much,” he said.
“The reputation they built is being shattered in just a few months. It’s disgraceful to destroy such an impressive legacy so rapidly.”
Moser characterized Audi’s current customer racing boss Chris Reinke as a “passenger”, adding, “I’m certain he presented his 100th presentation, but no one pays attention. That sort of neglect is destructive.”
Audi continues to finance its factory entry in the Dakar Rally, but it is anticipated that its rally-raid program with the RS Q e-tron could conclude by the end of the 2024 season.
This would leave Audi Sport boss Rolf Michl with no active projects.
Audi’s F1 project operates under a new company, Audi Formula Racing GmbH, which is officially a subsidiary of Audi Sport GmbH. However, F1 Managing Director Adam Baker reports directly to Audi’s Chief Development Officer Oliver Hoffmann.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Audi’s GT3 exit
What changes is Audi planning for its customer racing division?
Audi has decided to downsize its customer racing division next year, discontinuing the production of the R8 LMS GT3 and other racing models, and also disbanding its works driver pool. This decision will affect about 14 drivers and the teams that rely on financial support from the brand.
Why is Audi receiving criticism from racing teams?
Audi is facing criticism from racing teams due to its decision to divert resources from its existing motorsport programs to its upcoming Formula 1 project in 2026. Teams feel the decision has been made to the detriment of existing structures that have enjoyed past success.
Who will replace Markus Duesmann as the CEO of Audi?
Gernot Dollner will replace Markus Duesmann as the CEO of Audi starting September 1.
What will happen to Audi’s racing cars after the downsizing of the customer racing division?
While Audi originally planned to completely shut down its customer racing arm, a decision was later made to continue to provide technical support and spare parts until 2032. This ensures that teams can race its cars across GT3, GT4, and TCR categories.
Is there any other active project under Audi Sport after this downsizing?
Currently, Audi continues to fund its factory entry in the Dakar Rally. However, it’s expected that this rally-raid programme with the RS Q e-tron could also conclude at the end of the 2024 season.