Mike Rockenfeller will not combine defense of his DTM crown with a return to the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2014.
Audi Sport boss Wolfgang Ullrich has revealed that Rockenfeller will focus on the German-based touring car series for a second year after being pulled out of the Le Mans lineup ahead of the 2013 season.
Ullrich explained that clashes between the DTM opener at Hockenheim in May and the Spa World Endurance Championship fixture which Audi uses as a warm-up for Le Mans and the Hungaroring DTM round and the Le Mans test day, made a return to the 24 Hours for Rockenfeller problematical.
“A clash between the two programs made it impossible; it makes no sense,” Ullrich said.
Asked if making Rockenfeller concentrate on the DTM in 2013 was the right decision, he added: “If you take the result, it was not the wrong decision.”
Ullrich stressed that Rockenfeller, who won Le Mans with Audi in 2010, would return to sports prototype racing at some point in the future.
“I can just tell you he still has sports car racing in his heart and he will come back,” he said. “We have had a long-term plan since last year, but I cannot talk about it now.”
Rockenfeller added: “With the clashes it makes no sense to go back to Le Mans next year, but I will be back and I have a feeling that it is not too far away.”
Rockenfeller’s continued DTM effort with the Phoenix squad is the only component of Audi’s factory programs to be confirmed so far.
Ullrich explained that the retirement of WEC champion Allan McNish, which was only firmed up last Thursday, precluded a full announcement of drivers for the DTM and the WEC at Wednesday night’s Audi Finale event at the German manufacturer’s Ingolstadt headquarters. “Its effect even goes into the DTM and we didn’t have enough time to sort it out properly,” he explained.
Ullrich would not comment on how many additions there would be to the WEC lineup next year. It is expected that Lucas di Grassi will be promoted to a full-time drive, but it is less clear who will take his place in the third car for Le Mans and Spa. The effect of any reshuffle on the DTM lineup, which was expected to remain largely unchanged, is unknown.