Since the long winter break began, the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) is set for a few more changes before the first race weekend takes place in May at Hockenheim, with official ITR tests getting underway this week in Estoril for all three manufacturers.
The fact that the changes started at the season finale in Hockenheim last October, it was revealed by ITR e.V. Chairman Hans Werner Aufrecht that official tyre supplier Hankook would just be supplying the harder of the two tyre compounds that were used last year. The confirmation of the DTM calendar at the beginning of December showed that it would be more challenging for the drivers with two races per weekend to contend with.
Just last week, we found out that there would be a qualifying session for each race, which was the preference of 2005 champion Gary Paffett, when we spoke with the Brit back in January. This was as well as both races being time-limited, with Saturday’s race being 40 minutes, and Sunday’s one being 60 minutes long, with the latter having a mandatory pitstop.
Audi Sport’s Head of DTM, Dieter Gass, explained at the recent “warm up” event at the brand’s new Competence Center Motorsport in Donau, that extensive talks had taken place between the manufacturers, the DMSB (German Motorsport Federation) and the series promoter, ITR.
“There were numerous constructive ideas and proposals. I think we came up with a good approach,” said Gass, who said that the teams will still have a lot of work to do after the action calms down after Saturday’s race. “The DTM fans can look forward to a thrilling season and to DTM weekends with high entertainment value.”
Gass, who became Audi Sport’s Head of DTM back at the beginning of the 2013 season, stressed that the Ingolstadt manufacturer will have to make the best of the time available, especially with the tight turnaround of getting the vehicles back on track when accidents take place.
He also admitted that there has been a change in the allowed usage of the Drag Reduction System (DRS), where drivers could only previously use it once per lap, but had to be within two seconds of the car in front: “Qualifying and the grid position are particularly important in the first race, because without a pit stop the drivers can only overtake on track. That’s why they can activate the DRS, in other words the adjustable wing flap, three times per lap this year. This is intended to result in as many overtaking maneuvers as possible, and of course during the second race on Sunday as well.”
With qualifying being one of the biggest changes for 2015, Gass knows that to “keep it simple” will more than likely make a difference, but will also put drivers under pressure to make no mistakes to get the best grid position they can for each race.
“With 24 cars now and such a short time, conflicts are preprogrammed. Going out on track and not getting into traffic will be crucial. While in the past the drivers were able to get into their rhythm in Q1 everybody now has to immediately deliver their full performance,” he said, which not only raise the intense competition that exists in the DTM, but also make it more enjoyable for the fans, with the drivers pushing to the limit. “I’m already curious to see if anyone will be bold enough to go out only once in order to save a set of tires for the race; the grid position is too important for that.”
However, with 18 races to see just who will become champion, Marco Wittmann will have a lot of work to do in his title defence. Gass said that with the new format, it could stand that Audi could benefit from what changes have been made, especially with Mattias Ekström having taken wins at both Zandvoort and Hockenheim last year.
“I’m assuming that we’re going to see more drivers in the battle for the title for a longer time in the future. I hope that we’re going to profit from that at Audi. After all, we have a particularly homogeneous driver squad that we clinched the manufacturer’s title with last year,” he explained, and thinks that with their unchanged line-up, it could play to Audi’s advantage this year.
Audi Sport will not only be looking to defend the manufacturer’s crown that they won back from BMW last year, but with their line-up of experience and youth, they have a good chance of potentially doing a clean sweep. However, this will all depend on whether other factors are taken into account.