The Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) is approaching its halfway point in 2016. After four rounds, the German touring car championship has no clear favourites for the title, so it looks likely to be decided through consistency.
Next up on the calendar is the 2.67 mile Dutch track of Zandvoort, a real driver’s circuit that present different challenges. Firstly, Zandvoort is more sinuous, twisted and technical than any other track in the DTM. Then, being at a stone’s throw from the North Sea means there will be lots of wind and lots of sand on the track, a factor to be counted on the tyre front.
DTM tyre partner Hankook claims drivers will need a “balanced car set-up to cope with the varied features of the track. Cars are always at the limit in a place like this”.
Audi hopes for a fifth victory of Swedish ace Mattias Ekström, after 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2014. ‘Eckie’ wants to recover some of the lost points at the Norisring, three weeks ago, in a pretty eventful weekend that saw him out of both races. New winner for the Ingolstadt make, Nico Müller, wants to keep momentum and repeat his success in Nuremberg: “Once you’ve stepped on the top of the podium, you simply want more”.
Mercedes also want to regain form after a complicated double race at the Norisring, where the aforementioned Ekström collided with Robert Wickens’ and Christian Vietoris’ cars in Race 1, and with the only rostrum achieved by Paul di Resta in the same race. The Scot, third in the standings, says: “I’m keen to get back on the track. In recent years, Zandvoort hasn’t been very good for us, but we now understand why and we’re better placed to rise to the challenge”.
Last but not least, since they lead the manufacturers and the drivers’ standings, BMW travel back to a track that saw them achieve double victories, back in 2015. However, this year the situation has changed and the Munich squad will have to step up its game. Leader Marco Wittmann thinks: “Zandvoort suits me as a track. I think we can put up a good show and be successful again. But we must push hard, as this year things are pretty tight between all cars”.
Since we’re halfway in the 2016 season, bear with us in a small recount of the events so far.
Hockenheim hosted the first meeting of the year, where it was clear that the small tweaks to the rules in the form of more accurate ballast increase and allowing BMW to have a slightly wider wing helped bringing all participants together. Audi’s Edoardo Mortara and Paul Di Resta were the first winners, both in commanding fashion.
Austria’s Red Bull Ring didn’t have rain nor strange snooker playing between Audi and Mercedes, this time. BMW got its first taste of glory, achieving both victories, one for current leader Wittmann over Tom Blomqvist (on Saturday), and the other for former F1 driver Timo Glock who controlled a late charge from Ekström after the mandatory tyre change.
The Lausitzring saw the second victory for Spaniard Miguel Molina, after recovering ground on team-mate Jamie Green on Race 1, while 2015 Mercedes rookie Lucas Auer was an impressive winner on Race 2, with a 3-second margin over Ekström.
The urban track of Norisring seemed to be Mercedes territory once again, but the aforementioned incident caused by Ekström on Race 1 put an end to the Stuttgart domination since 2003. Mortara was the first driver to win twice in 2016, after fending off Green on Saturday, while Müller overtook Blomqvist in the undercut of Race 2 to add further glory to Audi.
As things stand now, Wittmann leads with 75 points, Mortara has 73 and Di Resta is third with 60. The Abt Sportline Audi squad leads the teams’ standings with 199 points, and BMW already achieved 310 points, over Audi’s 276 and Mercedes 222 in the manufacturers classification.