Pre-season testing for the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) has finally concluded, as the focus is now clearly on the first race at Hockenheim in a fortnight’s time.
One man amongst what looks to be a highly competitive field this year is Audi Sport’s Mike Rockenfeller, who took the drivers’ title before Marco Wittmann deposed him in the latter part of last season.
The Team Phoenix driver, who ended up third in the overall driver’s standings behind both Wittmann and Ingolstadt stablemate Mattias Ekström, admitted to TouringCars.net that his effort was “nothing to hide in a championship as close as the DTM.”
“Of course, the goal was to defend my title in 2014,” explained the 31-year-old, who was recently announced as the reserve driver for Audi’s Le Mans Prototype campaign. “Over the winter, we had a lot of meetings to find some improvements in the way we work for and during the weekends. This will help us to be more constant.”
With a lot of changes on the cards for this season, which includes two races per weekend for the first time since 2000, “Rocky” gave his thoughts on what could really make the difference.
“The biggest change is the increased number of races, having 18 races where you can score points instead of 10,” said the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours winner. “This is great for the championship.”
Strategies will also be another factor that he says will come into play when the talking needs to be done out on track: “Compared to last year, the all new format for the weekend will be a challenge, as well as how to use the four sets of tyres we are allowed.”
Even though BMW Motorsport showed its potential with the new M4 DTM last season, which provided Jens Marquardt’s outfit with two titles, the RS5 DTM from Audi Sport showed that it has been a consistent performer over the past two years.
Rockenfeller, who ended up taking second place at Oschersleben, Nürburgring and the season finale at Hockenheim, said that the strategies have been limited for the teams. This was partially due to the option tyre no longer being used as of the end of last year, but explained that it was better to move this way for the fans.
“The option tyre was great to increase the number of fights and overtaking we saw on the track,” he explained. “But I think that the new regulations will help our fans to understand the races much better and this is what counts. It’s all about a good compromise between action and understanding.”
He will also look to end his own personal drought of wins, having last taken the top spot of the podium at Moscow Raceway back in 2013. However, with the title potentially being open to any of the 24 drivers that will be racing in the DTM, expect “Rocky” to factor in very highly over the course of the season.