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Audi receives heavy criticism from teams after factory GT3 exit

Audi has come under fire for its decision to heavily curtail its customer racing activities from 2024, including the end of factory-supported programmes in GT3 championships.

Audi Sport Team photo

It was revealed last week that Audi’s customer racing division will be downsized next year, with the German manufacturer ending the production of R8 LMS GT3 and other racing models within its range. Audi’s works driver pool will also be disbanded, impacting as many as 14 drivers, while teams that are used to financial support from the brand will also be affected.

The decision about Audi’s impending departure was communicated to its 300 customers last Monday, following a board-level meeting.

A number of teams have since reacted poorly to the news, with heavy criticism being directed at Audi CEO Markus Duesmann, who is understood to have directed all of its resources to its upcoming Formula 1 project in 2026 at the cost of its existing programmes in motorsport.

"That was the flagship of Audi Sport and [its slogan] Vorsprung durch Technik," ex-Phoenix Racing boss Ernst Moser, whose works Audi team enjoyed plenty of success in both the DTM and at the Nordschleife, told Motorsport.com's sister website Motorsport-Total.com.

"For me, this is also a personal issue of certain people in the upper decision-making circles: before he leaves, someone wants to do everything so that the Formula 1 commitment has to be implemented.

"The people it affects don't deserve to have a structure like that die.

“This is his personal opinion and he does not know why they want to do Formula 1 now and nothing else. 

"You could have let it continue with small budgets, because the customers and their partners pay for almost everything themselves.

“But if this little plant continues to grow, it could perhaps be dangerous for the Formula 1 project. That is why it is no longer watered and dried out.

"That's my impression: everything that could perhaps still prevent the Formula 1 project [from happening] is now being destroyed."

Vosse unimpressed

Vincent Vosse, Team principal WRT

Vincent Vosse, Team principal WRT

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

WRT team boss Vincent Vosse, who switched to BMW with his squad last year after enjoying scoring multiple titles and race wins with Audi, also hit out at Deusemann's decision to cut its involvement in customer racing.

"I think it's exactly what is happening now, it's exactly what they want to happen," Vosse told Motorsport-Total.com. "This I have no doubt.

"It's not something which just happened now. it's something that has been decided years ago, I would say 1.5 maybe two years ago, it's just the impact of the decision that was taken two years ago. 

"I guess when Markus Duesmann arrived and decided to stop DTM Class 1, that was the first step. 

"But very quickly he decided to stop motorsport in general and put all the effort in Formula 1. 

"If they win in Formula 1, everyone will forget very quickly what happened. But I have my doubts."

Vosse also believes a double programme was easily possible, as Mercedes has proved by winning eight consecutive titles in F1 while continuing to feature heavily in GT3 racing.

"Now they concentrate on Formula 1 but it's not because they are doing [F1]," he said.

"I mean Mercedes have won eight world championships while doing customer racing.

"It's a joke. I mean. That thing is just a joke. Formula 1 has got nothing to do with customer racing.

"The costs are not high and they were very happy to be able to use it for the last 12 or 14 years." 

Attempto team boss Arkin Aka, who competes with his Audi team in the DTM and in GT World Challenge Europe, also cannot understand the decision to focus solely on F1.

"Motorsport has to be broad-based," he told Motorsport-Total.com. 

"Porsche has set an example and the Mercedes brand does not only Formula 1, but also GT racing. They all bring new models, so I ask myself: why doesn't Audi do that?" 

"When you consider 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

#32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS evo II GT3: Ricardo Feller, Dries Vanthoor, Charles Weerts

Photo by: SRO

Full exit averted

Audi was originally planning to shut down its customer racing arm entirely, but a decision was later made to continue to provide technical support and spare parts until 2032, ensuring teams can race its cars across GT3, GT4 and TCR categories. 

Asked if that gave some hope, WRT's Vosse said: "I hope so, I hope for them [the employees]. 

"But of course, not closing completely, they have to respect at least the customers they have and they have to. They still have to sell parts."

Moser added: "You have to live up to your contracts. When you sell cars, you have to provide some years of service and spare parts."

Duesmann will step down as the 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 am definitely happy that there is a change. And I would like it to happen, but I have no idea in which direction it will go.

"Name and reputation ruined in a few months."

Aka added: "Duesmann hasn't done the Audi brand much good. These visions he has [regarding electric mobility] were really just visions that can't be implemented. I hope they have come to the realisation that they should actually listen to the customer."

Vosse feels Audi's high-profile exits from Class 1 DTM, Formula E, customer racing, plus the axing of its LMDh programme, undoes the work put in previously to build the Audi Sport brand.

"I feel sad for those who have built the name of Audi Sport, like Dr Ullrich, Dieter Gass, Romolo Liebchen, Chris Reinke, Siegfried Krausem, who built the name Audi Sport, achieved so much," he said. 

"This name or what they did is being broken in a little bit more than just a few months. So to destroy this incredible reputation these people have built, I feel sorry and bad for them.

"To kill this reputation quickly is a shame."

Moser described Audi's current customer racing boss Chris Reinke as a "passenger",  adding: "I'm sure he made his 100th presentation, but nobody cares. That kind of thing ruins you."

Audi continues to fund its factory entry in the Dakar Rally, but it is expected that its rally-raid programme with the RS Q e-tron could come to a close at the end of the 2024 season.

This would therefore leave no active project under Audi Sport boss Rolf Michl. 

Audi's F1 project is housed under a new company Audi Formula Racing GmbH, which is officially a subsidiary of Audi Sport GmbH. But F1 Managing Director Adam Baker reports directly to Audi's Chief Development Officer Oliver Hoffmann. 

Mattia Drudi, Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3

Mattia Drudi, Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

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