Fifth round at Moscow Raceway: the battle for the half-time title.
Moscow. Following the successful debut last year, the DTM is racing in Russia again in 2014. Once again, Moscow Raceway is the venue, but the lay-out of the track is a new element compared to last year. Scheduled are 48 laps of the 3.931 kilometres long variation of the Grand Prix circuit, designed by German architect, Hermann Tilke. For Russian ex-Formula 1 driver, Vitaly Petrov, the fifth season round is a home race. Racing for Mercedes-Benz, 2014 marks Petrov’s debut season in the most popular international touring car series. BMW driver Marco Wittmann is coming to Russia as the points’ leader while reigning DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller (Audi) still has fond memories of his victory in Russia last year.
After the fourth DTM season round, Mercedes-Benz is riding on the wave of success. Robert Wickens made a comeback with a dominant lights-to-flag victory at Norisring. The Canadian scored his first 25 points and stormed up from naught to seventh place in the drivers’ standings. It was already the second victory of the season for the drivers with the three-pointed star following Christian Vietoris’s race win at Oschersleben. Marco Wittmann won the season opener at Hockenheim and the DTM round in Hungary and is in the lead of the drivers’ standings with a comfortable margin after four rounds. However, it is lonesome at the top for the BMW driver, because his rivals in second to sixth place, Edoardo Mortara, Mattias Ekström, Mike Rockenfeller, Adrien Tambay and Miguel Molina, are all racing with Audi’s four rings on their cars. In the drivers’ standings, Wittmann is 19 points clear of runner-up Mortara.
Audi aims at first season win in Russia
Even though the aforementioned Audi drivers are closely together in the first part of the drivers’ standings, the brand from Ingolstadt, well used to success, is still waiting for a victory after four races. “For our team, the first win of the season is long overdue,” says Dieter Gass, Audi’s head of DTM. “With nearly all the drivers, we have a continuously strong performance, while the opposition has highs and lows all the time. Repeating our victory from last year is our goal for the Moscow round, although we are racing at a different track lay-out.” In 2013, Mike Rockenfeller dominated the DTM premiere at Moscow Raceway and laid the foundation for his eventual championship title with fastest time in qualifying and victory in the race. One day after the Norisring round, the 30-year-old German became a father for the first time and is confidently looking into the future: “When we have a little bit more luck in some minor things, chances are good for us to be among the front runners again.”
The first Russian in the DTM: home race for Vitaly Petrov
Vitaly Petrov wants to score his long-awaited first championship points in his home race. In the first four rounds of his maiden DTM season, the Russian was never qualified higher than 17th. This is to change significantly at Moscow Raceway. The driver with 57 Grand Prix starts, who scored one podium finish and one fastest race lap in the top category, drove the Mercedes AMG C-Coupé race taxi and therefore has fundamental knowledge of the track. “Unfortunately, this will not be of much help to me,” Petrov says. “There are many drivers who got experience here last year, albeit at the shorter circuit variation.” Still, the 29-year-old knows that a very special race weekend is awaiting him. “These three days will be quite stressful for me, because motorsport is becoming more and more popular in Russia and many fans will be coming from all over the country.” With a dry sense of humour, he adds: “Hopefully, they will not keep me so busy that I don’t have time to talk with my engineers anymore.” As to his chances for the race, he is realistic: “Compared to the start of the year, my lap times have steadily improved and I am now feeling very well when driving the Mercedes-Benz DTM car. Nevertheless, the race will be anything but easy. In that respect, my home advantage doesn’t help me either.”
BMW wants to defend its points’ lead
For BMW, the Norisring weekend was a disappointing affair. Marco Wittmann had been able to defend his lead in the drivers’ standings, but his sixth place and seventh position for Joey Hand were a rather poor result from the brand’s perspective. Nevertheless, Wittmann is optimistic going into the upcoming weekend: “The new track lay-out should favour us all, because there are more corners, fast corners and long straights. In any case, the race will be more interesting than at the twisty track last year.” In 2013, his debut season in the DTM, the 24-year-old finished 15th in the race. “At the time, I had a weak performance in qualifying and making up ground in the race turned out to be difficult. I want to do better this year.” The current points’ leader is not yet considering himself as a candidate for the championship title. “So far, my season has been going really well, but there are still six races to go and many things can still change. Perhaps, I can say something about a possible championship title two or three races from now. Currently, I am just working from one race to another.”
DTM in Russia: a logistical masterpiece
For the DTM teams of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the journey to the east is a particular logistical challenge, in which they are getting support from DHL, the DTM’s logistics partner. In 14 groups, a total of 67 trucks made their way to Moscow. Next to the trucks of the DTM teams, the team trucks of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and the machinery of suppliers for hospitality and TV broadcasting are also involved. Depending on their home base, the journey takes the convoys from Germany via Poland and Lithuania to Latvia.
For instance, the three trucks of the Audi Sport Team Phoenix, located at the Nürburgring, will already have racked up almost 2,000 kilometres at that point. After clearing customs at the Latvian-Russian border, which can take up to ten hours when travelling into and out of the country, the journey continues towards Moscow on the M9. Admittedly, there are only 520 kilometres left until the final destination, but this part is by no means easy: the required breaks included, some 22 hours are calculated for the final leg. To ensure that the valuable cargo with the DTM race cars and equipments arrives safely at the destination, each of the convoys has two escort vehicles. The first trucks of the DTM teams were expected to arrive on Tuesday afternoon.
TV broadcasts take German fans into account
The time schedule for the Russian DTM round has been adapted to accommodate TV broadcasts in Germany. On Sunday, July 13, ARD is broadcasting live as usual from 13:15hrs, the race starts at 13:30hrs (15:30hrs Russian time). The battle for the starting grid positions on Saturday, July 12, will be broadcast live from 16:35hrs, qualifying gets underway at 18:40hrs local time in Russia.