Thoughts on DTM Champion Martin Tomczyk Leaving Audi for BMW in 2012
by, 11-21-2011 at 02:57 PM (10014 Views)
As likely with most of our race fan reader base, we were surprised this morning to learn that 2011 DTM Champion Martin Tomczyk will be exiting his Audi A4 racecar for a new BMW next season , and hot off of the acquisition of his 2011 DTM Championship title. Martin will be missed, though perhaps it's not a surprise he's leaving.
News has been met with a mix of responses. The Audi Sport fan presence on Facebook congratulated him on his title as he departs while some of our own readers commenting on Facebook were a bit more critical. In the end though, it was probably a good move for Martin given what we've heard about his positioning within Audi Sport's driver rankings.
Certainly his new champion status would have helped his placement within a large team of drivers with individual needs. No doubt he will be most sorely missed by Team Phoenix whom he drove to their first-ever wins and championship. Still, for Martin this is about his career. Having been at Audi so long, having joined in 2001 at 19 years old as an Audi junior at the wheel of a TT DTM, Tomczyk has always been strong but has also fought for team positioning with proven championship winners like his good friends and teammates Mattias Ekstrom and Timo Scheider.
A source inside Audi's DTM organization revealed to us earlier this season that it wasn't exactly a falling out that caused Tomczyk to move from his Team Abt A4 with its Red Bull sponsorship to an older car fielded by Team Phoenix. On the outside it may have looked like a demotion but there seems to be more to it than that. First of all, the 2010-spec Audi A4 DTM did appear to have some advantages, particularly earlier in the season and this could have been Dr. Ullrich's hedging of bets by placing a strong driver in one of the older cars.
This was Dr. Ullrich's call after all and the seasoned race team leader likely saw major advantages with giving Tomczyk a seat where he could shine on his own as primary driver at Phoenix.
As with most teams, drivers share resources. Winning drivers, and more importantly those with proven championship wins under their belts, tend to get more of those resources or have more of a say in development or setup. At Abt Tomczyk played second or third in importance behind Ekstrom and Scheider. By moving him to Phoenix, Dr. Ullrich placed Tomczyk on a team with less of a winning record and in a year-old car, and he also moved him to a position of leadership where he was Team Phoenix's primary driver. Teammate Rahel Frey was both a freshmen at Audi and still has not performed on the same level and thus Martin was able to live in the Team Phoenix limelight where he certainly shined all season.
So here he is with a new championship and not yet 30 years old. A major manufacturer, BMW, is entering the fray and looking to build their own multi-car and multi-team squad in a bid much like that of Audi and Mercedes-Benz. In short, BMW needed drivers and likely they were able to make Martin an offer he couldn't refuse... maybe money but, more importantlly, he is likely one of their lead drivers (or perhaps THE lead driver) with proven performance, experience and clout that comes that new championship.
At Audi, Martin's priority may still have been difficult to ascertain, even by Martin himself. Ekstrom and Scheider are still pillars of the Ingolstadt squad while young guns such as Molina, Jarvis and Rockenfeller should also not be underestimated. With a lineup like that, even a championship may not have assured him the catbird seat that he likely was promised over at BMW.
Another thing that should be considered here - the racing circles in which Audi runs will be expanding widely over the next two seasons. BMW joins the DTM and Toyota joins the World Endurance Championship both in 2012. Austrian Puegeot Le Mans star Alex Wurz announced a move to the new Toyota squad just a few weeks ago and Toyota (like BMW) also has several seats to fill. No doubt offers have been tendered to other Audi aces on both the DTM and R18 squads in order to fill those seats and drivers like 2011 Le Mans star Andre Lotterer is already a factory GT driver in Japan for Lexus.
Next year the expansion continues. A North American DTM series will be launched with even more seats to fill and possibly Cadillac entering the competition. Porsche will field an LMP1 at Le Mans and RS Spyder-fielding team boss Roger Penske has already been quoted as having interest in the Bernhard, Dumas and Rockenfeller trio. All three being currently or formerly under contract with Porsche certainly suggests they'll be considered for a Porsche seat.
This being Fourtitude, the AUDI enthusiast website, we're hoping they all stay at Audi, but racing is a business in the end and this is their job.
We empathize with Martin Tomczyk's move and we wish him luck even though we hope Audi beats him every weekend in 2012... or nearly every weekend.