Audi teams lay off staff but dismiss DTM exit rumours

Former factory Audi teams Phoenix and Rosberg have laid off some of their staff members, but both have denied this could mean they will not return to the DTM in 2021.

Audi teams lay off staff but dismiss DTM exit rumours

Phoenix, Rosberg and Abt have all lost their factory Audi backing in the DTM following the German marque’s exit from the series after the recently-concluded 2020 season. 

With the DTM essentially turning into a customer GT3 racing series next year, all teams are now required to raise their own budget, having relied on manufacturer funding in the past.

Mercedes customer GruppeM and British GT squad 2 Seas Motorsport are the only new teams to have committed to the new era of the DTM so far and, while some of the existing DTM teams have shown interest in the GT3 regulations, only Abt has confirmed so far that it will remain in the series next year.

There has been speculation that long-time Audi squads Phoenix and Rosberg would not compete in the DTM next year after it emerged that both of them have dismissed a part of their workforce.

According to sources, both teams have indeed downsized their operations, with five out of 17 employees being dropped by Phoenix and another seven (from a total of 21) let go by Rosberg.

However, both Phoenix and Rosberg insist they had no option but to switch to a leaner operation now that they no longer enjoy factory support and a return to the DTM under GT3 rules remains under evaluation.

Team Phoenix boss Ernst Moser recently pegged his outfit's chances of staying in the DTM as '50-50', while his Team Rosberg equivalent Kimmo Liimatainen was cautiously optimist about the squad continuing in the category next year.

"It's true that we've had to lay off people in some cases," confirmed Team Rosberg boss Liimatainen. "That kind of thing is never nice, but times change." 

"This doesn't mean that we won't do DTM. We just can't continue the DTM team in its current form as a factory team.

"Audi demanded a certain structure from us and they also made sure that the structure was feasible. If GT3 DTM is going to work next year - and I'm absolutely confident it will - then the team has to become more effective and smaller."

Moser added: "We have to cut costs in the winter. That's why we had to part with some of the employees. But that also came about partly on its own. Some people wanted to quit, others went elsewhere. We tried to implement this in a socially responsible way."

With teams yet to receive a copy of the new sporting and technical regulations, it’s still unclear how much staff they will need next year. However, it is known that the size of the pit crew will be reduced from nine to six members.

Outside of a potential return to the DTM, both Phoenix and Rosberg have lined up new programmes to race in other categories.

Phoenix launched an LMP2 programme in the Asian Le Mans Series in September with the ultimate aim of aligning itself with a manufacturer for a possible LMDh assault.

Since the news of Phoenix’s plans to compete in prototypes, Audi has announced it is ”intensively preparing “ for a return to top-flight of sportscar racing, while the board of sister brand Porsche has green-lit an LMDh project that will encompass both the FIA World Endurance Championship and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship from 2023.

Team Rosberg, meanwhile, will race in the new Extreme E series with World Rallycross star Johan Kristofferson and Molly Taylor.

No layoffs at Abt

Audi’s third factory DTM outfit Abt, however, hasn’t had to resort to any layoffs so far, with the team keeping its entire roster of staff intact.

While Phoenix and Rosberg are thoroughbred racing teams, Abt is also in the automotive industry with a business based around tuning Audi roadcars.

Abt confirmed on Thursday it would remain in the team, fielding a pair of Audi R8 LMS GT3s. It also runs the works Audi team in Formula E, but the German marque will leave the all-electric category at the conclusion of the 2020/21 season.

"So far, we haven't actively laid anyone off. And there are no plans to do so at the moment," said Abt Sports Director Thomas Biermaier. "We're keeping the people - and of the current DTM team, 90 percent will definitely be there next year.

"We are shifting around a bit, because we are a big company and have different projects. We can also lend people to our tuning departments. That's what we're doing right now. And that's definitely an advantage."

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