For many years, the Red Bull-backed Audi of Mattias Ekstrom was easily one of the most recognisable cars in the DTM, with the energy drinks giant becoming synonymous with the success of the two-time champion during their 16 years together in the series. So, when Ekstrom announced his exit from the DTM at the end of the 2017 season, it perhaps came as little surprise that Red Bull followed suit a few months later, pulling out as a sponsor of both the ex-Ekstrom Audi slot and Marco Wittmann's BMW.
But Red Bull's absence from the DTM has turned out to be short-lived, and it's back in the revamped GT3-based series this year with a team of its own. One of the operation's two AF Corse-run Ferraris will carry the famous red-and-blue colour scheme of the Red Bull brand, while the other 488 GT3 will sport the fan-favourite AlphaTauri livery also seen in Formula 1.
Having learned the ropes in GT3 alongside Rene Rast, Kelvin van der Linde is in line to take up the three-time champion's baton as Audi's new DTM king. From humble origins in South Africa, it's been a remarkable journey so far for the current series leader, but he knows that the 2021 title is a long way from settled just yet.
Switching to GT3 regulations marked a fresh start for the DTM in 2021, but it has also drawn a line in the sand against other series using similar cars by engaging AVL Racing to develop a bespoke Balance of Performance system. Here’s how it works.
OPINION: Facing collapse last year, the DTM has shifted its philosophy from a championship for silhouette-based touring cars to GT machines not too dissimilar to those racing across multiple series worldwide. But despite some initial BoP-based teething troubles, there were some pleasant findings as the 'new DTM' got underway at Monza
The DTM moves into its bold new GT3 era with welcome support from Red Bull, which enters two AF Corse-run Ferraris. That includes one for ex-F1 driver Alex Albon, who’s determined to make a success of his GT switch
It's taken him a while to emerge as a consistent title challenger, but in the final year of DTM's Class One ruleset, Nico Muller has smoothed the rough edges and has double champion stablemate Rene Rast working harder than ever to keep up in the title race.
It's 20 years since the DTM roared back into life at a packed Hockenheim with a back-to-basics approach as the antidote to its high-tech past. Now it's on its knees again, so is it time to recall the lessons learned in 2000?
Audi's announcement that it will withdraw from the DTM at the end of 2020 was the latest blow for a series that has lost three manufacturers in as many years. Some major soul-searching will now be required to assess how it can survive.
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