Jenson Button believes that there is room for series such as the DTM and Super GT to have a higher international profile, as the Brit prepares for his DTM début at Hockenheim this weekend in a Super GT-spec Honda NSX-GT.
Button is one of three guest entries from the Japanese series to join the DTM gird this weekend, ahead of the highly-anticipated joint race at the Fuji Speedway in Japan in November, where seven DTM cars will join the Super GT field.
The former Formula One driver believes that there is room for the tin-top series to have an even bigger international profile below the top tier of single-seater racing.
In an interview with DTM.com, the Brit was full of praise for the tie-up between the two series, as he comes towards the end of his second season in Super GT machinery.
“The SUPER GT opportunity with Honda came up, and it just looked like a lot of fun,” said Button. “The schedule really works – especially when you compare it to something as punishing as Formula 1, which is obviously a full-time occupation.
“But, more importantly, the cars are fantastic, and the formula – a self-contained GT endurance series – really appealed to me.
“Obviously, everything always exists in the shadow of Formula 1, but I definitely think there’s room for things like SUPER GT, WEC and DTM to have a higher profile.
“I think drivers and fans want to see fast, powerful cars, and that in turn attracts a higher caliber of driver and sponsor. I’d like to see those series become more popular on the international stage, definitely.”
Button says that the level of competition is just as high as in the top level of open-wheel racing, hoping that the tie-in between the two series continues to take steps closer together.
“I think people often think that GT and sports car racing isn’t quite as frantic as single-seater racing, but I can tell you: it’s just as crazy; just as full-on. There’s more contact, there’s a load more traffic – especially in SUPER GT – and you’re pushing on every single lap.
“I think the idea of bringing SUPER GT together with DTM is brilliant. These sorts of things aren’t easy to arrange, and they’re even harder to fine-tune, so I’d just remind people that we might not get it right immediately, so be patient as we try and make it work.
“Obviously, for us, it’s really exciting to be going to a new continent – back to Europe – and to a new circuit.
“And I think it’s a massive opportunity to be racing against Audi and BMW and the might of the DTM. That’s a huge thing for SUPER GT, and it’s going to be fascinating.
“Also, the fact that we have no idea how it’s going to go – will the SUPER GT cars be faster? Will we struggle with the Hankook tyres? It’s fascinating. I can’t wait.”
Button, who will race with the #1 on his car this weekend in deference to his 2018 Super GT title, is not setting himself any high objectives for this weekend, as the equivalency between the Super GT and DTM cars still has to be tried and tested, as well as the rest of the field having more experience in touring car racing on the Hockenheimring.
“Obviously, you go to every race wanting to win – and we’ve been able to do that a little bit in SUPER GT – but, in all honesty, I don’t go to Hockenheim hell-bent on winning.
“I haven’t been there for a couple of years, so it will just feel good to be back in a European racing paddock and to see some old faces.
“Hockenheim will be DTM’s backyard, so I don’t think we go there with too many expectations, and there’s still a lot we have to discover about how the cars can run together on track.
“Hopefully, we can come away from Hockenheim having had some fun and gathered some useful data, then we can really have some fun when the DTM comes to our backyard at Fuji in November.
“I know this whole process [of bringing the two series together] has been a huge amount of effort and a lot of work, so it will be fantastic to see it work.”