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Season Preview: Change arrives at Hockenheim

For the first time since 2012’s major regulation change, the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters moves in a new direction for the 2017 season, with many changes set to further re-energise a fast-paced and action-packed championship.

This coming weekend sees new cars, new regulations and new management being just some of the profound changes that the DTM has experienced in the customary long winter off-season.

Marco Wittmann will be looking to secure a third drivers’ title BMW and Team RMG, but he will have a fight on his hands with 17 other drivers, in what has always been an ultra-competitive series.

- Advertisement -’s Alex Goldschmidt looks ahead to what could be another landmark year in the DTM’s 30-plus year history.

Wittmann would be considered by many to be the odds-on favourite to win this year’s title, he had a difficult title defence in 2015, when he was unable to answer the form that eventual champion and current Sauber F1 driver Pascal Wehrlein showed.

He may have the target on his back, but his confidence will be at a high, thanks to taking his second title last year. However, there are several main challengers that could give the 27-year-old a run for his money.

The first is last year’s runner-up, Edoardo Mortara, who came so close to taking his maiden title, but missed out by just four points. The Italian now joins the strong line-up at Mercedes-AMG DTM after a seven-season spell at Ingolstadt, and will be in good company with the Stuttgart ranks.

Those include former champions Gary Paffett and Paul Di Resta, along with Robert Wickens and Lucas Auer, with returnee Maro Engel coming back after a five-year absence.

Audi Sport will run another consistent driver set-up for 2017, along with two new well-known drivers that have made the jump to DTM. René Rast and Loïc Duval will be the only two rookies joining the series for this season, but will have a lot of experience to call upon when necessary. Former champions Mattias Ekström and Mike Rockenfeller spearhead the Ingolstadt assault, along with Britain’s Jamie Green and Nico Mueller, with the former being another strong candidate for this year’s title.

The remaining five drivers at BMW Motorsport are proven competitors, as well as race winners, with 2012 champion Bruno Spengler, Augusto Farfus, Timo Glock, Maxime Martin and Tom Blomqvist alongside Wittmann, who is at the peak of his powers.

Changes on both the technical and sporting regulations will make for some very interesting racing, along with certain unknowns when the 18-strong grid go racing this coming Saturday.

The cars have more powerful engines, with figures around the 500bhp mark, softer tyres, reduced aerodynamics and a new gurney-flap style Drag Reduction System, which are just some of the challenges that all three manufacturers will face from Hockenheim.

The emphasis on the amount of input from the drivers will be upped significantly, with no tyre warmers being permitted, reduced crews on pitstops and heavily restricted radio transmissions. The races will still remain in the current format, but both races will now be 55 minutes in duration, with a mandatory pit stop required by all drivers.

Lap times have also shown a dramatic decrease, which was in the region of over two seconds quicker at the final pre-season test back in April, which has surprised many of the drivers. 

It is a welcome decision by the new leadership at ITR e.V, with ex-F1 driver and team boss Gerhard Berger taking over after the efforts over the past three decades or so by outgoing boss Hans Werner Aufrecht.

Also departing from the ITR board are Walter Mertes and Team Abt Sportsline boss Hans-Jürgen Abt, with Florian Zitzlsperger staying on as vice-chairman and CEO of ITR GmbH, running the commercial side of the operation.

So with many unknowns yet to be encountered and 18 hungry drivers set to battle around the 4.574-km circuit this weekend, the DTM is ready to roar back into action.

2017 DTM Hockenheim weekend schedule – All times CEST (BST + 1)

Friday May 5th:

1700 – Free Practice 1 (30 minutes)

Saturday May 6th:

0955 – Free Practice 2 (30 minutes)

1135 – Qualifying 1 (20 minutes)

1448 – Race 1  (55 minutes + 1 lap)

Sunday May 7th:

1000 – Free Practice 3 (30 minutes)

1220 – Qualifying 2 (20 minutes)

1618 – Race 2 (55 minutes + 1 lap)

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