Thursday 26 April 2012

DTM preview: Start into a new era

DTM preview: Start into a new era

The introduction of the new Technical Regulations and the return of the BMW brand with a factory commitment in 2012 mark the beginning of a new era for the DTM. For the first time since 1992, the three German premium car brands, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are competing against each other again in the most popular international touring car series. Ten classification races in five European countries plus the second edition of the big horsepower spectacle at the Munich Olympic Stadium promise to deliver motorsport fascination at the highest level.

The DTM offers several new features for the 2012 season. The most important step no doubt is the introduction of the new Technical Regulations that were developed by the three participating manufacturers in close collaboration with the DTM rights owner and promoter ITR e.V. and the German Motorsport Association (DMSB). The constructive collaboration of all the parties involved in this process is regarded as exemplary in worldwide motorsport. The most important premises for creating the new regulations were cost reduction, optimum safety for the drivers, retention of the race cars’ fascination and maximum equality of opportunity for all participants.

Successes were achieved in all of these areas. To help reduce costs, all of the new-generation DTM vehicles share a number of identical parts, albeit these shared parts are limited to components that do not directly influence performance. Consequently, it is still possible for all manufacturers to implement their own technological expertise and ideas in their vehicles. The main component of the DTM safety concept is an innovative carbon fibre safety cell with a mounted roll cage made of high-strength steel. The driver’s seat, the pedals, the steering column and the safety tank are integrated with this cell for optimum protection in case of an accident. Also new are the six crash elements, with one each installed at the front and rear and two each on the left- and right-hand sides of the vehicle. These tube-shaped carbon fibre elements help to absorb the energy after a crash.

For the fi rst time since 2003, the DTM in 2012 is again racing with sporty coupés. The Audi A5 DTM, the BMW M3 DTM and the DTM Mercedes AMG C-Coupé with their dynamic, fl at contours sport a more spectacular brawny look than the previous DTM race cars that were based on four-door saloons. Even a few years ago, the British “Autosport” magazine voted the DTM race cars as the most spectacular touring cars worldwide. The new generation raises the benchmark yet again. The significantly larger tyres of the series’ exclusive tyre partner Hankook contribute to the impressive appearance of the new DTM vehicles as well. Last but not least, the new Technical Regulations assure equal opportunities for all entrants. Compliance is monitored by the experts of the German Motorsport Association.

Another change in the 2012 season concerns the points system. For the first time, the DTM is using the system known from Formula 1 that awards points to the top ten in the overall classification of a race. With 25 points the winner now clearly receives a higher score than in the past. Points for positions two to ten are: 18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1.

This year, the DTM calendar again encompasses ten classification races in five countries. Traditionally, the Hockenheimring in Baden-Württemberg is the venue of the DTM season opener and finale. In addition, the DTM is represented with races at the Lausitzring, the Norisring in Nuremberg, the Nürburgring and at the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben in the north, east, south and west of Germany. The calendar is complemented by four races in other European countries. Like last year, the DTM in 2012 is again racing at the tradition-steeped circuits of Brands Hatch in Great Britain and Zandvoort in the Netherlands, at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, that was reopened last year plus at the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo near the Spanish city of Valencia.

After the extremely successful premiere last year, the spectacular DTM event at Munich’s Olympic Stadium on 14 and 15 July will be held for the second time in 2012. The DTM drivers compete against each other in thrilling duels on a purpose-built tarmac track in the stadium. The competitions even include pit stops. In addition, the DTM event features numerous live concerts, driving demonstrations and other activities in a high-calibre entertainment package for the whole family.

For the 2012 season, Audi and Mercedes-Benz have each prepared eight new cars, while new entrant BMW participates with six competition cars. At Audi, as in the previous years, the two two-time DTM Champions Mattias Ekström and Timo Scheider are driving for Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, which is also fielding two cars for the Swiss Rahel Frey and the young Frenchman Adrien Tambay. At Audi Sport Team Phoenix, the team that provided the champion Martin Tomczyk last year, Mike Rockenfeller has returned after a year with the Abt team, his team colleague is the Spaniard Miguel Molina. The driver pairing at Audi Sport Team Rosberg - the Italian Edoardo Mortara and the Portuguese Filipe Albuquerque, who are both contesting their second DTM season - has remained unchanged.

At BMW, the Canadian Bruno Spengler and the German Dirk Werner are driving for the long-standing Schnitzer team based in Freilassing, Bavaria. The three-time World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx from Great Britain and the Brazilian Augusto Farfus are competing for the Belgian RBM team, whereas DTM title defender Martin Tomczyk and the American Joey Hand are driving for the RMG squad based in the Eifel region that was newly formed last year.

Mercedes-Benz in 2012 is bringing two new drivers into the DTM - the Spaniard Roberto Merhi and the Canadian Robert Wickens. Merhi won the Formula 3 Euro Series and the FIA Formula 3 Trophy last year. Wickens was the overall winner of Formula Renault 3.5 and has already tested in Formula 1. Together with Christian Vietoris, who is contesting his second DTM season, Merhi and Wickens are forming the DTM Mercedes-Benz Junior Team under the patronage of the seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher. Vietoris moves up into the HWA team. His team-mates are the two Britons Gary Paffett and Jamie Green plus Ralf Schumacher. Roberto Merhi drives for the Persson team which is also fi elding a car for the Scot Susie Wolff. Robert Wickens competes for the Mücke Motorsport squad where he will be the new team colleague of the former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard.

“Three days of action for the whole family” is the motto for each DTM event. Friday starts with a 30-minute functional test for the race cars, the so-called roll-out. This is followed by the fi rst 100-minute free practice session. Both after the roll-out and the free practice there are starting practice sessions scheduled for all drivers. On Saturday morning, the second free practice is held, again for 100 minutes. In the early afternoon, the grid positions are determined in four qualifying segments featuring a shoot-out format. The slowest drivers, respectively, are eliminated in the fi rst three sessions. The quickest four then compete for the positions on the two front rows of the grid in the fi nal fourth session featuring single timed runs with a flying lap. On Sunday, there is a 30-minute warm-up in the morning as fi nal preparation for the race that is typically started at 14:00. All participants have to make two mandatory pit stops at each of which the four Hankook tyres have to be changed. Refuelling is no longer permitted as of this season. Admission to the paddock, autograph sessions, driver interviews and pit walks have been integral components of a DTM race weekend for years and signifi cantly contribute to the huge popularity of the touring car series. At all races in Germany, TV partner ARD provides high-calibre trackside live acts as part of its chart show.

The Formula 3 Euro Series, the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland and the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup are again the offi cial partner series at most DTM race weekends, complementing the event programme with spectacular motorsport.
DTM Press.

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