DTM History

DTM History: Audi TT

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Abt Sportsline junior driver Peter Terting on his way to 11th in Shanghai in 2004. Image thanks to DTM.com

The DTM returned in 2000 bringing back the series for the first time since the end of 1996. Mercedes and Opel were the series’ two founding manufacturers, however, it wasn’t just Mercedes and Opel represented on the grid. There was also an Audi presence in the form of the Audi TT run by Audi’s motorsport partners Abt Sportsline. Despite not being a fully fledged manufacturer, Audi supported Abt Sportsline and the Audi TT in the DTM and they were rewarded with a championship three years later. I’ve taken a look back at the Audi TT in the DTM in this edition of DTM History.

2000 – The Learning Year

Unlike the extensive preparations enjoyed by Mercedes and Opel for the new era of the DTM, Abt Sportsline’s participation in the DTM with the Audi TT was announced on the 31st January 2000. British company Foss-Tech assisted in the build of the cars, but the lack of preparation heading into the TT’s maiden season hampered the team.

Abt Sportsline’s first year of DTM competition with the Audi TT was a steep learning curve. With the Abt-Audi TT-R 2000 as their challenger and cars split between two teams Abt Sportsline 1 and Abt Sportsline 2, only one driver completed the full season in the car. Dane Kris Nissen finished the 2000 DTM season 20th out of 21st in the standings in what was a tough debut year. A number of other drivers and cars did feature in 2000 however, with 1999 BTCC champion Laurent Aiello and Christian Abt completing rounds 1 and 3-10,  Roland Asch round 2, and BTCC driver James Thompson taking part in rounds 2 and 5-10.

Despite the roster of touring car talent, a shorter wheelbase (among other reasons) than the Mercedes and Opel cars meant the Audi TT was uncompetitive, and the Abt Sportsline cars finished 16th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st in the standings with Aiello the highest-placed driver among them. His 5th place finish at Motorsport Arena Oschersleben would be the car and team’s best finish of the year and the Abt Sportsline teams finished 9th and 11th in the team’s standings.

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Despite its great looks, the Audi TT was uncompetitive in its first season of DTM competition. Image thanks to Motorsport Images and LAT Photographic

Abt-Audi TT-R 2000 Technical Specifications

Displacement: 3999cc

Engine Configuration: 90 degrees longitudinally mounted V8

Brakes: Ventilated Carbon discs (front and rear)

Drive: Rear-wheel drive

Power: 455 bhp

Length: 4122mm

Width: 1850mm

Height: 1250mm

Weight: 1080kg

2001 – First Taste Of Success

Ahead of the 2001 DTM season, Abt Sportsline received a dispensation from the DTM governing body to increase the length of the Audi TT by 200mm, bringing it closer to, but to a still shorter wheelbase length that the rival Mercedes and Opel cars by 100mm. With the teams now split between a senior and junior team, the Audi TT-R DTM 2001 proved to be more successful in 2001 and would bring the team its first silverware in the DTM.

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The Audi TT won its first DTM race at the Nurburgring in 2001. Image thanks to Jon Tingle/LAT Photographic

Christian Abt, Laurent Aiello and Kris Nissen remained with the team as Mattias Ekstrom and Martin Tomczyk replaced Thompson and Asch. The now four-car lineup featured a more stable arrangement of drivers in 2001, with Abt, Ekstrom and Tomczyk completing every round and Aiello missing only round two at the Sachsenring where he was replaced by Nissen.

Abt-Audi TT-R 2001 Technical Specifications

Displacement: 3999cc

Engine Configuration: 90 degrees longitudinally mounted V8

Brakes: Ventilated Carbon discs (front and rear)

Drive: Rear-wheel drive

Power: 455 bhp

Length: 4322mm

Width: 1850mm

Height: 1201mm

Weight: 1080kg

The car was competitive, and the team won five races in 2001, with four race victories coming courtesy of Aiello all at the Nürburgring and Abt winning at Zandvoort. Despite missing two races at the Sachsenring, Aiello still managed to finish 5th in the standings, whilst Ekstrom finished 8th, Abt 10th, Tomczyk 13th and Nissen 25th. In addition to the five race victories, the Audi TT would also feature on the podium a further nine times in 2001, with all four main drivers securing at least one podium finish.

Following a much-improved year, the Abt Sportsline senior team finished 4th in the team’s standings whilst the junior team finished 6th ahead of all the star-studded Opel teams.

2002 – Championship Success

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Laurent Aiello prevailed in a tense title battle with Schneider in 2002 to give the Audi TT its first and only DTM title. Image thanks to DTM.

2002 was the season that the Audi TT made its mark in DTM history. With the wheelbase of the car increased again to 4600mm the Audi TT began 2002 as the clear frontrunner in the DTM.

Abt-Audi TT-R Technical Specifications

Displacement: 3999cc

Engine Configuration: 90 degrees longitudinally mounted V8

Brakes: Ventilated Carbon discs (front and rear)

Drive: Rear-wheel drive

Power: 460 bhp

Length: 4600mm

Width: 1850mm

Height: 1201mm

Weight: 1080kg

The team expanded to a five-car lineup with former F1 driver Karl Wendlinger joining the team in a fifth Abt-Audi TT-R. Abt, Aiello, Ekstrom and Tomczyk all remained. The car won the first four races of the season as both Tomczyk (1) and Aiello (3) reached the top step of the podium. The car and team would, in fact, go on to win 8 of the first 10 races of the year as the Abt Audi TT-R proved to be the class of the field. Aiello stormed into an early championship lead which proved to the unassailable, and he ended the 2002 season as DTM champion.

Aiello would win 8 out of 20 races in total in 2002, with Ekstrom winning 3 times and Tomczyk once as the Audi TT won 12 out of 20 races. Ekstrom finished the season 3rd in the standings, with Abt in 7th despite not winning a race, Tomczyk in 11th and Wendlinger 14th. Abt Sportsline finished the season 2nd and 4th in the team’s standings, losing out on the overall team’s title by 3 points to Vodafone AMG Mercedes.

2003 – End Of An Era In The DTM

The Audi TT’s final year ended in a failed title defence, as the car secured one race victory all season courtesy of Aiello at the Nurburgring. Fresh from the success of the previous season, Abt Sportsline once again expanded, this time fielding a sixth car for junior driver Peter Terting. Aiello, Abt, Ekstrom and Wendlinger campaigned in a brand new 2003 TT-R, whilst Tomczyk and Terting drove a 2002 machine. The season was a tough one, and with Opel seemingly nowhere the year was dominated by Mercedes who won 9 out of 10 races as Bernd Schneider won the title.

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2003 was the Audi TT’s final full season in the DTM before it replaced by the A4 in 2004. Image thanks to Esport Racing de.

Ekstrom would be Abt Sportsline’s highest-placed driver in 4th, scoring five podiums whilst defending champion Aiello finished 6th with four podiums including his race win. Abt finished 12, Wendlinger 16th with Terting and Tomczyk coming 17th and 18th respectively in a disappointing campaign for a team which was hoping for back to back titles. Abt Sportsline still managed 3rd, 4th and 10th placed finishes in the team’s standings but in the Audi TT’s final year of DTM competition, there was to be no further championship success.

Abt-Audi TT-R 2003 Technical Specifications

Displacement: 3999cc

Engine Configuration: 90 degrees longitudinally mounted V8

Brakes: Ventilated Carbon discs (front and rear)

Drive: Rear-wheel drive

Power: 460 bhp

Length: 4600mm

Width: 1850mm

Height: 1201mm

Weight: 1080kg

Audi entered the DTM as an official works team at the start of the 2004 season and with it came the new Audi A4 DTM. The Audi TT would make one one-off appearance in 2004 at the non-championship Shanghai race driven by Terting to 11th, but would never feature again in the DTM.

The Legacy

The Audi TT is one of my favourite touring cars of the last few decades. Its uniqueness and the fact that it took the DTM title against the might of Mercedes and Opel whilst being run by a semi-independent Abt Sportsline outfit means its place in DTM history is secure for the foreseeable future.

What did you think of the Audi TT? Do you remember seeing it race? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!

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