New drivers, brand new cars and even more excitement The DTM is headed for a particularly special season in 2004. The DTM driver line-up has never been so top-class: Heinz-Harald Frentzen (three-time Formula 1 winner and 1997 vice-world...
New drivers, brand new cars and even more excitement
The DTM is headed for a particularly special season in 2004. The DTM driver line-up has never been so top-class: Heinz-Harald Frentzen (three-time Formula 1 winner and 1997 vice-world champion) is driving for Opel in 2004, Frank Biela (DTM champion in 1991) is making his comeback to the DTM with Audi after an absence of 13 years. Bernd Schneider, the most successful driver in the history of the DTM, is again competing for Mercedes-Benz.
All three makes have developed completely new racing cars -- and all the new vehicles are four-door instead of the previously raced Coup?s. Audi, Opel and Mercedes-Benz are competing with racing versions of their bestsellers A4, Vectra and the C-class and by doing so are making an even stronger endorsement of the DTM. The four-door car also represents a return to the classic touring car.
Audi: Factory-backed return to the DTM
Audi is once again competing factory-backed in Europe's most popular touring car racing series more than a decade after the triumphal procession of the Audi V8 quattro. The Ingolstadt-based manufacturer has pulled together a strong line-up with 1991 DTM champion Frank Biela, Italian Emanuele Pirro and Dane Tom Kristensen as well as the established drivers Christian Abt (D), Martin Tomczyk (D) and Mattias Ekstr?m (S).
"The A4 is tailormade for the new technical specifications of the DTM," said Audi motorsport head Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "It can also look back on a long tradition in the sport of touring cars." The team, backed by the works teams of Joest and Abt Sportsline, wants to match the success that Audi enjoyed with the A4 when it won many international titles between 1995 and 1999. "The primary aim for us is to be able to triumph," said Frank Biela.
Opel: strong line-up, high motivation
Opel is entering the new DTM season with a newly drawn up driving team. Former Formula-1 driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen, three-time DTM winner Marcel F?ssler (CH) as well as 2002 DTM champion Laurent Aiello (F) are the spectacular new entries for the R?sselsheim carmaker. Timo Scheider, Peter Dumbreck, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Manuel Reuter complete the line-up. "This is the strongest driver line-up that Opel has ever had," said Opel sports head Volker Strycek. "This will naturally spur us on even more."
Just as spectacular as the new line-up is also the look of the Opel Vectra GTS V8, which with its interesting sponsors brings even more colour onto the DTM grid: men's magazine Playboy and current affairs magazine Stern are advertising on the Opel winners. Alongside the new Opel Vectra GTS V8, which is being used by the OPC teams Phoenix and Holzer, an Opel Astra V8 coup? will be driven by Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen.
Mercedes-Benz: new car, well-established team
At Mercedes-Benz the four-door Mercedes-Benz C-class is also superseding the hitherto used CLK coup?. Apart from the four new cars which will be driven by champion Bernd Schneider, former Formula 1 driver Jean Alesi, Briton Gary Paffett and vice-champion Christijan Albers, the Stuttgart manufacturer is relying on four of last year's successful cars for Markus Winkelhock, Jarek Janis, Bernd Mayl?nder and Stefan M?cke.
"Audi and Opel have substantially strengthened themselves this year and I therefore expect that the coming season will be even harder, perhaps the hardest ever," said Mercedes motorsport head Norbert Haug. "Our drivers' team consists of a good mix between experienced drivers and young talent. The test drives in the new C-class have shown that the team around Gerhard Ungar have formed a good foundation for the new season."