Rocky’s bull’s-eye: Champion at Zandvoort with Audi

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Mike Rockenfeller crowns strong season with early title win.

Ingolstadt/Zandvoort - Mike Rockenfeller has extended his biography by a decisive item in the second from last round of the 2013 DTM season at Zandvoort (the Netherlands). The 29-year-old Audi factory driver clinched an early title win in the most popular international touring car series DTM. A portrait of ‘Rocky.’

“My aim this year is simple: Of course I want to become champion,” said Mike Rockenfeller at the beginning of the season. The absence of the mischievous grin that is typically found on his face showed that he was not uttering a hackneyed phrase but was dead-serious. And now, after six DTM years, he has actually made it happen.

2013 champion Mike Rockenfeller
2013 champion Mike Rockenfeller

Photo by: XPB Images

Mike Rockenfeller from Audi Sport Team Phoenix sealed the title one race before the finale at Hockenheim on October 20. Following triumphs in the Porsche Carrera Cup (2004) and in the FIA GT Championship (2005) plus victories in the classic 24-hour races at Le Mans and Daytona (2010), this marks the next success in his career.

A surprise Champion? Not really. Last year – his second one in a current-generation DTM car – in fourth place of the standings, he was the best Audi driver and thus finally joined the group of favorites for the title. In the current season, he underpinned his Championship ambitions at an early stage.

On winning round two at Brands Hatch (GB), the driver of the yellow-green Schaeffler Audi RS 5 DTM captured the top spot in the standings for the first time and is the only driver who has scored points in all nine races of the season so far – consistency having been one of the keys to success.

Even when, for a change, Rockenfeller was not cheering on the podium – as he was as the runner-up at Lausitz and on clinching his historic victory at the DTM’s premiere at Moscow – he set exclamation marks as a race driver. At the Red Bull Ring, ‘Rocky’ battled his way forward from 13th to fourth place.

The city street race at the Norisring he tackled from the last row on the grid following a transmission change and in the end took a strong fifth place. On a wet track at the Nürburgring, Rockenfeller had to get out of a rival’s way in turn one and as a result found himself running at the rear of the field. Thanks to a tactical move by his squad at the command post ‘Rocky’ recovered and saw the checkered flag in fourth place.

Stay calm and relaxed even when all seems to be lost. Never lose your cool. Never give up. An exceptionally high basic speed, combined with a healthy dose of self-confidence and optimism that inspires the team even in difficult times – aside from his high level of technical knowledge, strong team spirit and, naturally, plenty of talent are the major strengths of the new DTM Champion.

“Rocky not only has the speed you need for titles in the DTM but drives in an incredibly clever way as well,” says Team Director Ernst Moser as he praises the level-headedness of his fast protégé. “Obviously, he’d love to win every race. But, not least thanks to his wealth of experience, Mike knows when it’s more prudent not to force the issue in a situation.”

The perfect interaction between Rockenfeller and the engineers of Audi Sport and Audi Sport Team Phoenix is another element of success that Moser has identified. “Rocky has the ability to provide very precise descriptions of how the Audi RS 5 DTM performs in different track sectors and thus can squeeze the optimum out of the car together with the technical crew,” explains the team boss and, this said, goes on to name one of Rockenfeller’s weaknesses. “

Sometimes he goes overboard with his tendency toward perfectionism and puts himself under nervous pressure. But whenever this happens his engineer Jürgen Jungklaus quickly brings him back to reality.”

Mike Rockenfeller gathered initial experience in a car at the tender age of eight when he was driving a VW beetle around the grounds of his grandparents’ farm. When, at the age of ten, he climbed into a kart for the first time just for fun he immediately realized: “Racing is my great passion.”

Following six years in karting, Rockenfeller switched to Formula König and immediately made a strong showing on clinching the pole position and fourth place in the first-ever car race in his life. Just a little later, Porsche secured the services of the budding talent that had just come of age.

Together with the Swabian marque ‘Rocky’ competed in the USA as well and developed a liking for the country and its traditional race tracks such as Laguna Seca that has lasted to this day. December 2006 marked the beginning of a new chapter in Rockenfeller’s career. Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich signed the German, thus paving the way for him to achieve the biggest successes his career.

“Mike’s not only a fast race driver but a perfect fit for Audi outside the cockpit as well,” says Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. With his on-track performances – above all, obviously, his victory at Le Mans and now his DTM title – he has more than fulfilled all the hopes we’ve pinned on him. In all his years with Audi, Mike’s had to cope with a few setbacks, so that makes our joy about his title even greater. Everybody at Audi Sport is delighted for him to have achieved this success.”

As a way of balancing his turbulent daily life as a race driver, Rockenfeller values the decelerating effect of country life. Rockenfeller, who grew up in Neuwied in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate with both sets of grandparents being farmers, is now living in Landschlacht on the Swiss shore of Lake Constance with his partner Susanne.

Enjoying a meal at a good restaurant, watching a movie at a theater or simply lounging around all day wearing shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops – these are the ways in which he prefers to recharge his batteries for the next races in the little bit of free time he has. An environment he is used to, a home – is important to him.

That is why he takes his ‘own four walls’ in the form of his motorhome to the track whenever he can. There is just one catch about it: He does not have the right driver’s license that would allow him to move the large vehicle. Finally getting this license, besides winning the DTM title, has been at the very top of his agenda for 2013. So his sights are now set on the next aim.

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “Winning a DTM title is always a very special thing. I think Mike (Rockenfeller) will fully realize this only in the next few days or weeks. He’s an absolutely deserving and worthy 2013 DTM Champion – he’s shown this today yet again. Congratulations to him, to Audi Sport Team Phoenix and to everyone at Audi Sport in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm as well.

Following the difficult 2012 season, we decisively improved the RS 5 DTM in winter despite the tight regulatory requirements. The same is true for the R18 e-tron quattro that we won Le Mans with and that we’re just about to win the title in the World Endurance Championship with. Leading both programs to success in parallel was a huge effort for the whole squad. But it was well worth it.”

Dieter Gass (Head of DTM): “A fantastic day for Audi! Before the event, we carefully thought about the situation, prepared everything and ran through various scenarios. But we couldn’t expect to actually be able to wrap up the title today. On Saturday, we saw that BMW was enormously strong here. But we kept calm and, particularly on the option tires, showed a strong performance today, as Mattias (Ekström) demonstrated. We made use of our possibilities and became an early Champion.”

Mike Rockenfeller (Schaeffler Audi RS 5 DTM, 2nd place): "“I need a few minutes to myself now in order to realize the success. It was a long race, and it had a bit of spice due to the start. After overtaking Marco Wittmann, I briefly dreamed of victory when I closed the gap to Augusto (Farfus). But I was having difficulties on the standard tire. I was happy that Timo (Scheider) was behind me and covered the rear for me.”"

Timo Scheider (AUTO TEST Audi RS 5 DTM, 3rd place): “It’s been a tough season until today. We managed to come back step by step and to draw on the performances we’d been planning on. This worked out today. And it feels particularly good because we were able to support Mike (Rockenfeller) in winning the title. He truly deserves the title. Congratulations to Mike Rockenfeller, Audi and Audi Sport Team Phoenix.”

Mattias Ekström (Red Bull Audi RS 5 DTM, 4th place): “That was an interesting race. I advanced from eleventh to fourth place and had thrilling battles on track. That’s definitely okay. But the most important thing is that Audi became Champion today. I’m incredibly happy for ‘Rocky,’ Audi Sport and Audi Sport Team Phoenix.”

Adrien Tambay (Audi ultra RS 5 DTM, 6th place): “I’m pleased. We scored some good points. Moving forward from tenth to sixth place was very good. I had a great race with a good pace and nice overtaking maneuvers. My Audi was running perfectly the whole weekend; ‘thank you’ for that to my team. I could have finished in fourth place. Unfortunately, the safety car thwarted my plans. ‘Rocky’ became Champion, our aim has been achieved. We’re all happy today.”

Filipe Albuquerque (Audi Financial Services RS 5 DTM, 8th place): “That was a hard race for me. Initially, on the option tires, I managed a good start but subsequently got stuck behind Marco Wittmann. The strategy was difficult and, unfortunately, I lost a few positions. But I did everything I could and finished in the points. That’s a good result for me and for Audi Sport Team Rosberg. Naturally, we’re aiming to score points again in the finale at Hockenheim.”

Miguel Molina (Audi RS 5 DTM, 10th place): “It was a good race. On the option tires I had a good pace but wasn’t quite as fast anymore on the first set of standard tires. On the final laps, I had a couple of good battles with Martin Tomczyk and Gary Paffett. I finished in the points here for the third time; I’m pleased about that. But more important is the fact that Audi, Audi Sport Team Phoenix and ‘Rocky’ (Mike Rockenfeller) have won the Championship.”

Jamie Green (Red Bull Audi RS 5 DTM, 13th place): “That was an interesting race. I had a good start and a great first lap, and was able to make up a few places. We stayed out for a very long time on the first set of tires, a few drivers caught up and I had to let them pass. The same thing happened to me during my second stint on standard tires. On option tires, I was able to make up ground in the end. I tried to overtake Dirk Werner but he moved to the left and right. Unfortunately, we touched, he flew off track and I went into a semi-spin as well. That caused the safety car period. Afterward, I was no longer able to catch up and finished in 13th place. Without this incident I could have probably scored points.”

Edoardo Mortara (Playboy Audi RS 5 DTM, 14th place): “My string of bad races unfortunately continues.”

Hans-Jürgen Abt (Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): “Congratulations to Audi, Audi Sport Team Phoenix and Mike Rockenfeller on winning the Championship. But with Timo Scheider’s third and Mattias Ekström’s fourth place we delivered a superb performance today as well. Our rookie, Adrien Tambay, did a great job too. We also provided strong support to ‘Rocky’ to ensure that he stands where he’s standing today. Everything simply fit together and we’re going to have a great party today.”

Ernst Moser (Team Director Audi Sport Team Phoenix): “We achieved our aim. By taking second place we won the Championship early. ‘Many thanks’ to Audi and to the other two teams. ‘Rocky’ (Mike Rockenfeller) was in superb form and did everything right. He caused quite a bit of suspense today. Now we’re Champions and now we’re going to celebrate.”

Arno Zensen (Team Director Audi Sport Team Rosberg): “Congratulations to Audi, Mike Rockenfeller and Audi Sport Team Phoenix. A sensational race, it’s nice that he won the Championship here, so now we can travel to Hockenheim relaxed. Our race had highs and lows. It’s a shame that Filipe (Albuquerque) had Joey Hand slip by him again in the early phase, which meant his race was lost. But he bravely battled his way to eighth place. Edo (Mortara) wasn’t able to keep the pace on option tires in the beginning. Afterward, he was fast but by that time it was too late.”

Audi

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About this article
Series DTM
Article type Race report
Tags albuquerque, audi, dtm, green, molina, rockenfeller, scheider, tambay, zandvoort

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