After the comeback year from BMW Motorsport brought the Munich manufacturer great success after an absence of 20 years, it all starts again from zero, as Day X comes in just under a week’s time at the venerable Hockenheimring. The “New-Era” of the DTM is set to continue with its second year under the current fixed technical regulations, with the crowds awaiting the roar of rear-wheel drive, V8-powered monsters once again.
With regards to the comments that were made in my interview with 2011 champion Martin Tomczyk late last year, there has been a development regarding the ‘show’ for the fans, as well as bringing an excitement back to the DTM. ITR and the DMSB have decided to bring in two main changes to spice up the action in qualifying and the race itself.
Optimization on all areas is the paramount focus for all three premium brands, as the current technical specifications are frozen for 2013, whilst the Drag Reduction System and Option Tyres, courtesy of official tyre partner, Hankook, bring about a new change for the drivers and teams to contend with when it comes to strategy, as well as there being no fixed pit stop windows during the races for the coming season.
The 10 race calendar sees the removal of the Munich Show Event and the penultimate race at Valencia for this season, but Zandvoort now takes Valencia’s place, with the addition of Moscow Speedway this coming August, where Audi Sport helped to bring a lot of interest and excitement for the series by showcasing their 2013 challenger, the RS5 DTM.
There has been a fair share of saying goodbye to several drivers, with Rahel Frey, Susie Wolff, David Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher not remaining with their respective teams this year, which sees the DTM to be a completely male grid for 2013. There are also several newcomers for the respective manufacturers that will be making their debuts in less than 7 days, some from the F3 Euroseries and Formula One, which means an influx of new blood to help keep the racing close.
Former Marussia F1 team driver Timo Glock joins BMW Motorsport’s new outfit for 2013, Team MTEK, alongside fellow rookie, Marco Wittmann, who steps up from his role as test and development driver for a full race seat, thanks to the efforts he made last year. Ernst Knoors heads up the team, with its proximity to Munich being of benefit to the new 2-car team.
Andy Priaulx and Joey Hand have swapped around for this season, with the 3-time WTCC Champion being partnered with Tomczyk at Team RMG, and the ALMS veteran setting up shop beside Brazil’s Augusto Farfus at Team RBM. The line up at Team Schnitzer remains unamended as Spengler now becomes the hunted for 2013, with all gunning for the number “1” on his matt black M3 DTM this season, and is again partnered with Dirk Werner, who alongside Priaulx, Farfus and Hand, are no longer rookie drivers.
Jens Marquardt‘s dedicated and loyal BMW squadron have been hard at work, as have Audi and Mercedes-Benz, covering over 15,000 kilometers during the 8 days of pre season testing, getting used to the new option tyres and the DRS, as well as getting preparations in place for every possible situation. But just because Munich secured a clean sweep of titles last year, does not mean in any way that they are resting on their laurels, as the fights on track will be even closer.
While BMW extend their ranks, Mercedes-Benz’s new Head of Motorsport and current HWA shareholder, Toto Wolff has decided on a younger, aggressive and more compact line-up for 2013, reducing their cars from eight to six. 2005 DTM champion Gary Paffett leads the squad, with the Mercedes Junior Team comprising of Robert Wickens, Christian Vietoris and Roberto Merhi. Two young hopeful rookies in the form of 2012 F3 Euroseries champion, Spain’s Daniel Juncadella and Germany’s Pascal Wehrlein, complete this young and exciting line-up for Stuttgart’s ongoing goal of staying the most successful manufacturer in the history of the DTM.
To help these two youngsters, Schumacher has now become a DTM team manager following his retirement, as he now has shares in RSC Mucke Motorsport, and will help the two youngsters by mentoring them with his wealth of racing experience over the last two decades. Nico Rosberg will also have a hand in guiding the Junior Team, as he takes over the role once filled by 7-time F1 World Champion, Michael Schumacher, who retired for the second and final time last season, who will now be a Brand Ambassador for Mercedes, but have no real involvement in the racing.
Then the brand with the four rings has also changed its line-up, as “Mr. Norisring” Jamie Green has moved to Ingolstadt for the 2013 season, ending a long-term association with the “Three-Pointed Star.” His experience is just one of the reasons for the move to Audi Sport, which helps compliment the array of talent and experience that can help to push for the titles as well, having narrowly missed out to Munich for the manufacturer title at the last race.
Mattias Ekstrom, who has become a father once again earlier this season, has renewed motivation in his 13th successive campaign to make last year a clear and distant memory, and partners the British driver at Team Abt Sportsline, to bring an experienced and dynamic leading pairing to the fore of the eight car assault. Timo Scheider, who had his worse year in the DTM in 2012, again partners with young French ace, Adrien Tambay at Team Abt, but also sports a new colour scheme, reverting to the black that brought him two successive titles in 2008 and 2009 as a potential “good luck charm.” Could either Ekstrom or Scheider secure their third DTM title for Audi? It all depends on what transpires through the season, or could title glory be winging its way back to Britain?
2010 Le Mans winner, Mike Rockenfeller, was the most consistent Audi driver in 2012, and was Ingolstadt’s highest placed at the end of the 10 races. The German, who drives for Team Phoenix, alongside Spain’s Miguel Molina, looks to build on his established and consistent form last season. Miguel has been given a new chance to prove his worth to both Ingolstadt and Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich to keep him in a proven and respected series, and proudly sports the bright red “RS 5” livery on his car for the season, which shows the correlation between the track and the road.
Filipe Albuquerque and Edoardo Mortara are paired once again, with one driver sporting a new colour scheme on his car for 2013, as Filipe receives the “Audi Financial Services” livery. Double race winner Mortara looks set to capitalize on his improving form with Audi, and could be one to watch this year, as his determination on the track, alongside testing for Lotus GP last season and studying for a degree, shows the depths of character the drivers have in this day and age. Both drivers also recorded a welcome victory at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in the WeatherTech Audi R8 Grand-AM, alongside former DTM driver, Olly Jarvis and US home talent Dion von Moltke, so it also shows a sign of how versatile drivers can be when pushing hard to the maximum.
So testing has been completed, the drivers now prepare for the build-up towards Day X, as BMW Motorsport gets set to defend all three titles when we go racing in Hockenheim. The grid may have changed, but the cars stay pretty much the same, as the DTM roars back into the ‘old’ routine this coming Saturday. The drivers now look forward to close and exciting action for 2013, with all as hungry as ever to do the best job possible over 2 days of practice, qualifying and racing.
TCF will be bringing some new features of its own this year as well as reporting LIVE from both Brands Hatch in just over a fortnight, as well as the dusty Dutch delight known as Zandvoort, which hosts the penultimate round. So prepare for interviews with those involved in the DTM from both on and off the racetrack, as well as some behind-the-scenes insight into the complexity of the series and much, much more.
This season has the potential to be one of the closest yet in the series’ 30-year history, as the drivers, teams, media and passionate fans wait for the lights to go out at Hockenheim.
The DTM is ready…. Are you?