Insight: ABT Sportsline

Formula E’s only German team has a rich history of success in creating not only race-winning touring cars, but in producing high-performance road machines too. Now it has extended its reach even further, and become one of the founding teams in the ground-breaking FIA Formula E all-electric racing series.

Mission Statement

Team boss Hans-Jurgen Abt first met Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag at the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix. Here they discussed the idea of Formula E. Being a motorsport pioneer always on the look out for new challenges, Hans-Jurgen was captivated. Just six months later the deal was done: ABT was coming to the new series.

“We’re proud to have the opportunity to take part in the debut of this new racing series. Participating in the new FIA Formula E Championship marks a completely new chapter in our more than 60-year motorsport history," says Hans-Jurgen.

History

It’s a long history. In fact, over 118 years have passed since Johann Abt founded a blacksmiths in Kempten – the south German town where the team is still based - and began adapting coaches so they could endure the bitterly cold winters of Bavaria. Since that day his company has been following the evolution of the motorcar from coaches, to sportscars and now, Formula E.

The ABT operation has evolved over time, but it is still very much a family business. Four generations on from Johann Abt, Hans-Jurgen is running the show. Since 1967, the company has been a leading marque for tuning cars produced by the Volkswagen brand throughout the world; be they Audi, VW, Skoda or Seat.

The company also runs a very successful motorsports division: ABT Sportsline. The team can be traced back to the early 1950s when Johann Abt (grandson of the illustrious founder and father of Hans-Jurgen) took part in races at the Kempten grass track – he went on to record more than 300 race victories.

His son Christian (brother of Hans-Jurgen) extended the family’s motorsport pedigree by winning the 1991 ADAC Formel Junior title and the B-class championship in German Formula 3 the following season for the family team. In 1999 Christian claimed the German 2-litre Touring Car title (the STW) before ABT switched the recently-revived DTM V8-powered series.

The DTM has proven to be a very fruitful series for ABT. Laurent Aiello became champion in 2002 before Mattias Ekstrom won two championships in 2004 and 2007 and Timo Scheider did the same in 2008 and 2009 – no other team has claimed more titles over that period

The 2009 season was a golden one for the team. Christian won the ADAC GT Masters and Daniel Abt (Hans-Jurgen’s son and one half of the team’s Formula E line-up) claimed the ADAC Formel Masters.

Key Personnel

Hans-Jurgen and Daniel are joined at the Formula E team by team principal Thomas Biermaier. Biermaier has been the sports director for ABT Sportsline since 2013 having previously worked in the company’s export department. Ex-Formula 3 championship-winning team owner Gianni Bianchi will be the project leader while Jacky Eeckelaert, who previously engineered Kimi Raikkonen when the 2007 Formula 1 world champion raced for Sauber in F1, moves over from the DTM squad to run the engineering team. Veteran single seater engineer Roberto Costa is race engineer for Daniel.

Drivers

While Audi isn’t currently involved in Formula E as a supplier, it does lend its name to the ABT entry, and one of its works World Endurance Championship drivers, Lucas di Grassi. Daniel will dovetail his efforts in Formula E this year with a second season in GP2.

“It’s a great team to be part of as it’s a part of Audi,” says di Grassi. “Since I joined Audi I’ve had the best years of my career. It’s a great opportunity that Audi has allowed me to drive for ABT in Formula E.

“We’ve been working very hard because Formula E is very new and because of that very complex – there’s a lot to understand about what’s going on and how to optimise every component – tyres, battery, motor, energy consumption per lap, qualifying strategy, race simulation and so on. ABT had been doing a great job and when you have a good car everything looks very easy!”

The brand new innovation that Formula E brings is the product of over a century of development in the history of car technology. ABT has been there throughout the journey as a developer, competitor and pioneer. When the lights go out at the Beijing ePrix next month, the latest chapter will begin.

Visit the team page for more insight into the history of ABT Sportsline.

To get a glimpse into the mindset of a racing driver watch Daniel Abt at the team factory in Germany.