Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters 2001

DTM presentation in Hockenheim: top class driversb line-up, three strong makes, new race format, moderate prices - and more TV

Hockenheim. Clear the stage for the new season. For 2001, the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) presents itself more attractive and with more variation: with new drivers, the three makes Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Opel, with closer competition thanks to fine-tuning of the regulations, significantly more airtime from the two German public TV channels ARD and ZDF - and a new, action-packed race format. Will be taking the start: four Abt-Audi TT-Rs, ten Mercedes-Benz CLKs and eight Opel Astra V8 Coups, the race calendar consists of ten events.

The DTM driversb line-up is of high quality. Half of the 22 drivers have one or more titles from international championships to their names. And one of them is the one they are all after: reigning DTM-champion Bernd Schneider (Mercedes), the 1997 FIA GT champion and the 1995 DTM/ITC-champion. And not only his fellow-Mercedes-drivers want to put the pressure on him. DTM-runner-up Manuel Reuter, twice winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours, and Le Mans-winner Joachim Winkelhock spearhead the Opel-squad in order to bring the 2001 champion's title to the manufacturer from Rsselsheim. With eight race victories each, Mercedes-Benz and Opel were equally matched in last year's winner's list.

Just in time for the presentation, Abt Sportsline brings the new Abt-Audi TT-R to Hockenheim. "We have been working day and night", says team boss Hans-Jrgen Abt. "The process of the regulation changes has taken its time, therefore we are a little bit late. But we are incredibly motivated - this year, we will be challenging for the lead with the Audi." The team has already established one record: Abt's new signing Martin Tomczyk, 19, is the youngest DTM-driver of all times.

Compact and with an exciting plot - that it the best way to describe the DTM's new race format. Hans Werner Aufrecht, chairman of the DTM-organisation ITR: "It is our goal to further increase the fascination of the DTM, both for fans at the track and for the TV-spectators at home. To achieve this, we have made the modifications to the race format." In the only 45 minutes of qualifying on Saturday, each driver may complete no more than twelve laps, just like in Formula 1. On Sunday, there will be a 35 km qualifying race first. When the chequered flag drops, the race for the strategists and techicians of the teams starts, because after exactly 25 minutes, the main race will be started - covering a distance of 100 km, spiced up by a pit stop with tyre change.

With moderate ticket prices, video-walls, fan-TV, paddock tickets and pit-walk, the DTM increases its involvement for the fans at the track. TV-spectators benefit from more airtime by DTM-partners ARD and ZDF. Both channels will be alternately broadcasting the DTM live, from the qualifying race and the repair break through the main race and the winnersb ceremony. Also new are the channelsb experts: the ARD has signed former champion Klaus Ludwig, who will also be co-commentating the race live. Former DTM-driver Klaus Niedzwiedz will be the ZDF-expert.