It has been a trying year for the 2011 DTM Champion, Bavaria’s very own Martin Tomczyk, who was top dog last season, after winning with Audi Sport that year. But as the New-Era came along, the 31-year-old, who is soon to become a father for the first time early next year, decided to make his own future, and joined fellow veteran and newly crowned 2012 Champion, Bruno Spengler, at BMW Motorsport, who returned after 20 years away from the DTM.
This towering figure of a race driver, who is also a keen extreme sportsman in his time away from the track, was inspired to take on a new direction with a new team, and attempt to defend the title he fought so valiantly for. Martin spoke exclusively to us here at theCheckeredFlag.co.uk about his first season with “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, the changes he had to adapt to with joining Team RMG, as well as the new cars, impending fatherhood, and much more.
Martin’s season had its fair share of ups and downs, just like any racer trying to do his or her best, racing their hearts out towards their goals. He said that it was a lot of hard work during the winter period from him and the team, not to mention the other 5 drivers that BMW had on board for this year, and then the results started in earnest: “Right from the start of the season, it was great to see the hard work by all of us had paid off. I was really happy with my own performance, being as I was keeping in touch with the leaders until Norisring, thanks to three successive podiums
“But in the second half of the year, as you sometimes find in racing, I found that didn’t have as much success, as I would have liked. I had four successive retirements, which really put me out of the race for the title. But with the combined efforts of all the teams, drivers, engineers at BMW, we were not only able to keep the “No. 1” at Munich for another year, but also managed a clean sweep of all the DTM titles.”
Looking back on his own personal highlights this season, walking into Hockenheim for the first race weekend was one of them: “It was a good feeling, walking into the paddock, and seeing all three manufacturers set up there, as we were at the very beginning the “New-Era” of the DTM.”
On track, his first podium of the season, which came at the Red Bull Ring, where we saw Audi Sport’s Edo Mortara pick up his first win of the year, was a welcome feeling: “It was great to see how happy the team were, as it showed how competitive I was in the M3 DTM from the very beginning.”
Now as a very close season of racing has finished, the building blocks for the next assault begin forming from the time the current season ends. There is one goal above all that he is looking at, and that is to have the “No. 1” back on his M3 at the end of next year. But it was a steep learning curve for all concerned, as Herr Tomczyk explained the trials of this season, and how they approach the challenges in 2013: “Both myself and my team really learned a lot this year, so it was a case of all of them finding out the best way to work to their maximum, so as to achieve the best results possible.
“Over the winter, it will be a case of looking over what happened this year, reviewing it in detail, and look to start well from the first race next season.”
BMW Motorsport’s welcome return to the DTM after a 20-year hiatus was a proud moment for Martin, as he grew up just 40 kilometers from Munich itself, and was equally moved when he joined the squad: “It was a nice feeling to become a part of this new family, as well as Team RMG. It’s great because over the winter, you get to know well the people you will be working with, and are able to build a great relationship with the likes of Team Principal Stefan Reinhold. It’s also very welcome to have a good team structure in place, so as to work together for a great joint team effort.”
Looking at the new DTM regulations, I asked Martin about his thoughts on how much the racing has changed with the way the DMSB have amended the specifics of how the cars are adapted from a technical standpoint: “It was clearly the case that the racing would be much closer, as the first qualifying session showed that all cars were within one second of each other on lap times. This really closed up all the cars form all three manufacturers, as the combination of safety, aerodynamics and part sharing worked incredibly well.
“This was truly a welcome addition, as these days, touring cars are becoming incredibly hi-tech. Myself, personally, I felt that the new steering wheel paddle shift was quite uncomfortable at first, as we used to have the sequential gearbox until last season, where I really knew when I needed to blip and shift down a gear. But as new changes come along that you have to adapt to, especially as the cars now shift up automatically, it eventually worked out, as you only need to use your fingers to shift up or down the gears.”
With promoters always looking to find out ways to enhance the “show” for all race fans, it was interesting to hear it from a driver’s perspective what could be done, in order to progress the DTM that little bit further. Martin made it very clear of one key aspect that is a must for the series: “Everyone from the DTM to ITR to the manufacturers all know, that it is the overtaking issue that needs to dealt with. They are all discussing it over the wintertime, so hopefully there will be some kind of solution before we go racing again. But the qualifying, as I said, is a great show for everyone, as it is so close.”
Was there anywhere that the new M3 DTM was really above the rest? No, was Martin’s answer, as BMW Motorsport’s new DTM chariot was “just a great all-round package,” which in many ways, showed just the strength of the Munich manufacturer’s effort for this comeback season.
When about the current state of the DTM calendar, Martin is very open-minded on what the future may bring for the series: “It is great to be able to go to places like Moscow, but as we are still the DTM, we still must stick to providing races for our German fans. If it is the case that we need to go to more non-European tracks, going to another one or two will put us on the right track.”
Martin and his partner, Swiss female racer, Christina Surer, will soon be welcoming their first child in the early part of next year, and is looking forward to becoming a father: “Christina will still join me at the track, if possible, with the baby as well. All my teammates, with the exception of Bruno, all have kids of their own, and they bring them to the races as well.
“It’s going to be quite a new experience for me, as I don’t quite know what’s really going on, but I have some idea, as my brother has three boys, so I know what to kind of expect. However, my routine and preparation for the coming season won’t change.”
One of the most memorable comedic moments in the early part of the season took place at Brands Hatch earlier this year, where Martin handed BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt a particular card on his birthday, which said “I///M OLD,” which made the whole room burst out with laughter. He also said that there are always practical jokes being played between everyone all the time, but he couldn’t tell us what antics had been carried out during the season.
In such a high-pressure series like the DTM, you can understand if there is some kind of jocularity between the pit crew and the engineers, then it is a way for them all to lighten the mood, but Martin is clearly a very driven individual, as his upcoming 13th season could be very rewarding, but with changes afoot in the driver market, who knows what his chances may be for next season. Come May 5th at Hockenheim, we will see how he fairs, as the engines roars before the lights go out…