By: Berthold Bouman, DTM Correspondent
- Hankook new DTM tyre supplier
- Mercedes and Audi again archenemies
- Overview of all teams and drivers
The German Tourringcar Masters (DTM) championship will take off at the circuit of Hockenheim in Germany on Sunday May 1. The popular touring car championship has been dominated by Mercedes and Audi, now Formula One driver Scot Paul di Resta won the championship last year, which in fact earned him a race seat with Force India. Although DTM is a typical German series, this season’s calendar includes venues not only in Germany, but also in the Netherlands, Great Britain, Austria and Spain.
DTM has a long and rich history, the series started in 1984 and are now by far the most popular touring car series in Europe. Previous championship winners include the names of Klaus Ludwig (1988, 1992, 1994), Hans-Joachim Stuck (1990), Frank Biela (1991), Nicola Larini (1993), Gary Paffett (2005), Matthias Ekstrom (2004, 2007), Timo Scheider (2008, 2009) and the DTM king of all champions, Bernd Schneider, who won the championship five times: in 1995, 2000, 2001,2003 and 2006.
The 2011 DTM Season
The regulations for the high-tech series have been frozen until 2012, but like in Formula One, DTM has a new tyre supplier this season: the Korean Hankook company who will be the sole tyre supplier. This also means all teams and drivers will have to adapt to the new tyres, a challenge that should not be underestimated. Finding the right set-up and adapting a new driver style will be of utmost importance, but will also be difficult as the technical regulations have been frozen, which means teams can not make major changes to the car.
When it comes to qualifying, the tyre delivers from the first lap
Swede Ekstrom has tested the new tyres. “We have to praise Hankook, it has been the first time that the company had to design racing tyres for demanding DTM vehicles,” he said. Ekstrom was satisfied with the performance of the Hankooks, “When it comes to qualifying, the tyre delivers from the first lap. And in the race we expect it to shine with an extraordinary life span. Therefore, I think that the races will be even more thrilling than in the past as I believe that the field will stay closer together for a longer time.”
DTM only knows two tyre types: the slick dry weather tyre and the grooved wet weather tyre. All teams have been able to test the tyres ahead of the season, and all are confident they can find the right set-up for qualifying and the race. But whether the Hankooks will completely change the DTM series like the Pirellis did in Formula One remains to be seen, especially because the tyres were, unlike in Formula One, designed to last long under race conditions.
Audi has been involved in DTM as a works team from 1990 to 1992, and returned to DTM again in 2004. It is their 11th season and never before has the competition from Mercedes been stronger than last year, as a result, di Resta won the title for Mercedes.
Audi has signed three youngsters -- Rahel Frey (Switzerland), Filipe Albuquerque (Portugal) and Edoardo Mortara (Italy). Their three top drivers, Ekström, Scheider and Oliver Jarvis are serious title contenders, and Audi hopes to beat Mercedes again this year.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport expects a better start of the season, “The season opener at Hockenheim is always a very special weekend for the whole squad. After last year, in which we weren’t as successful as we thought we’d be, we want to show right at the first race of the new season that we’re in contention for the championship.” And he added, “Everyone is bound and determined to give all they’ve got. We look forward to this and will compete with a reinforced squad. It includes many very strong drivers and every one of them has the chance of winning races.”
We want to show right at the first race of the new season that we’re in contention for the championship
Hans-Jürgen Abt, Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, is also looking forward to the start of the season, “We worked very hard in winter and are obviously hoping to be able to convert this work into successes. The squad is again expecting many fans to turn out and we’re all wishing for good results.”
Ernst Moser, Team Director Audi Sport Team Phoenix, “During the test at the Lausitzring we were able to see how close our times are to those of the new cars. We handled the Hankook tires very well, so we’re confident.”
Arno Zensen, Teamchef Audi Sport Team Rosberg, also can’t wait to race again, “Everyone is happy that the winter is over and Hockenheim is coming up. We want to close the book on our 2010 season. In Albuquerque and Mortara we’ve got exactly the combination in our team that we’ve been wishing for.”
Mercedes will start this year as the reigning champion, but without title winner di Resta. Mercedes won nine out of the 11 races the previous season and like Audi they also contracted two gifted drivers this year: Renger van der Zande and Christian Vietoris.
Mercedes Motorsport Director Norbert Haug anticipates, like his colleague Dr Ulrich, the 2011 season will be completely different compared to last year. “It will be a whole new ball game in the new season -- although the cars will be the ones also used in 2010. With the new tyre partner, Hankook, teams and drivers will have to meet new challenges. And only those who succeed in coping with these challenges best will make it to the top,” the German prediced.
And asked whether he thinks Mercedes can again reel in the title he said: “This weekend at Hockenheim represents a new beginning, with nobody having merits or demerits of the past season under his belt. As I see it, about 50 percent of the drivers have a chance of winning the season opener. We want to make use of our chance and try to secure a result similar to the ones we celebrated in the previous DTM races at Hockenheim. We certainly haven secured a race-win subscription but will have to keep on working hard for every win. And the entire team is ready to do so with a lot of enthusiasm.”
All 2011 DTM Teams and drivers
Two German car manufacturers and DTM archrivals Mercedes Benz and Audi will again be present on the start grid this season. Both Audi and Mercedes have each entered nine drivers for this year’s championship. Below an overview of all teams and drivers.
Thomas Sabo AMG Mercedes
Driver: Garry Paffett (2)
For 30-year old Paffett 2011 will be his eighth season in DTM, he won the title in 2005, but last year he lost the title to di Resta with only four points. He won last year’s season opener and is upbeat about his chances this year, “I want to win my second DTM title. I just can’t wait to get behind the wheel and start into the first race of the season.” And the Briton added, ”The grid for the 2011 DTM Championship is once again extremely competitive and I am expecting another closely fought Championship. We have a new tyre supplier, Hankook, so it will be interesting to see what impact this has on the racing.”
Mercedes-Benz Bank AMG
Driver: Bruno Spengler (3)
Canadian Spengler joined the DTM series in 2005 and last year he finished third in the championship. He has started in 63 races, won six of them and took the pole-position seven times. He is an experienced driver and is one of the favorites for 2011. Spengler is happy to finally race again after a long winter stop. “Following the long break and the countless kilometres of testing covered in the winter, I truly look forward to the start of the new season,” he said.
Asked about this year’s expectations he said: “Last year I started into the season with five consecutive podiums and it would be great if I succeeded in tying in with this record, this year. I celebrated my last Hockenheim win to date back in 2006 and I want to finally make it back to the highest step of the Hockenheim podium, this year.”
Audi Sport Team Abt
Drivers: Timo Scheider (4), Oliver Jarvis (5)
Scheider won the title in 2008 and 2009, but was beaten by Mercedes driver Di Resta last year. Scheider is certainly looking forward to the first race of the season, “The season opener at Hockenheim is just around the corner. I’m incredibly thrilled to be racing again after a long winter break. It’s been a really long wait before we’re now getting the chance to compete again in front of this wonderful crowd at Hockenheim.” The 32-year old German has eight years of DTM experience and is again one of the title favorites.
I’m incredibly thrilled to be racing again after a long winter break
His team mate 27-year old Jarvis joined the DTM series in 2008 and he will start his 25th race at the Hockenheimring. The Briton won the McLaren Autosport Award in 2005 and has in the past participated in A1GP and in several Formula Renault series. Jarvis is happy to be race again, “Winter seemed like an eternity. We tested but nothing comes close to the feeling of driving a race.” Asked about his expectations he replied: “I’m hoping for a strong start to the season on the new Hankook tires. And if the beginning is good, then who knows? Hopefully, I’ll be in contention for victories and at the end of the year perhaps even for the championship win.”
Salzgitter AMG Mercedes
Driver: Ralf Schumacher (6)/
Ex-Formula One driver Ralf Schumacher made his debut in the series in 2008 and finished his rookie season in 14th place. “I like the series, I like the environment, I like the enthusiastic and positive spectators and I like Mercedes,” the 35-year old German said. The younger brother of seven-times World Champion Michael Schumacher had a troublesome 2010 season and finished 14th in the championship, but has vowed to up his performance. “I feel good in the Salzgitter AMG Mercedes C-Class and have set myself the goal to deliver on a higher level, this year,” he said. “The season is kicked off at Hockenheim, a circuit I know really well and that features a great atmosphere on the Mercedes-Benz Grandstand and in the stadium. All this represents an additional motivation for me to secure a fine result right in the season opener.”
Driver: Jaimie Green (7)
Green joined the DTM championship in 2005 and has started in 63 races of which he won six. The 28-year old Briton therefore has plenty of experience in DTM, last year he finished in sixth place in the championship. “It’s a great feeling to know that Mercedes-Benz have decided to reward my efforts in recent years -- including those three victories in Nuremberg and my performance as best driver in a year-old car in 2009 and 2010 -- by giving me a current AMG Mercedes C-Class. I’m aiming to repay the confidence they have shown in me by turning in some good results this year,” he commented ahead of the race in Hockenheim.
Audi Sport Team Sportsline
Drivers: Mattias Ekstrom (8), Mike Rockenfeller (9)
Double DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom is certainly one of the favorites for the title this year. The 32-year old Swede is a DTM veteran, he contested as many as 104 races in ten years and won 13 of them, and won the title in 2004 and 2007. Ekstrom expects this season will be quite different, “It’ll be a completely new competition with the new Hankook tires. All expectations are focused on us.” And the popular driver added, “My own expectations are very high too. Last year I was struggling a bit. This year I tried a lot of new things during my preparations in winter. That’s why I’m looking forward to qualifying and to the race with eager anticipation.”
Mike “Rocky” Rockenfeller started his DTM career in 2007 for Audi, he participated in 31 races but has yet to score his maiden victory. He is a real sports car racer and is also a keen participant of the 24hrs of Le Mans, he won the race last year for the Audi Sport America team in 2010.
It’s always great to see so many fans at the first race at Hockenheim
The 27-year old talented German with the very American sounding name can’t wait until the season gets underway this weekend, “I’m incredibly excited about the 2011 season opener at Hockenheim coming up. It’ll be a really interesting start for me in a new team with a new car and a new sponsor. Many things are new. I’ll let myself be surprised. We had good tests in winter. It’s always great to see so many fans at the first race at Hockenheim and the track suits me too.”
TV Spielfilm AMG Mercedes
Driver: Susie Stoddart (10)
For Susie Stoddart, one of the two female drivers this year, it will be her sixth season in DTM, and with 52 starts she certainly has enough experience, and the 28-year old Scottish born racing driver scored her first points at the Lausitzring in 2010. She came from the British Formula Renault and British F3 series and made her DTM debut in 2006 driving for Mucke Motorsport. “My first DTM points last season were long overdue,” she said, “When you’re driving last year’s model, it’s by no means easy to finish among the points, but once again, I’ll be giving it everything I’ve got.”
Junge Sterne AMG Mercedes
Driver: Christian Vietoris (11)
Another rookie with great expectations is Vietoris, the 22-year old German was successful in several German Formula 3 series, participated in the GP2 and GP2 Asia series and also drove for A1GP Team Germany and was in fact the youngest driver ever to win a A1 GP race, he was just 18 years when he won the A1 GP of New Zealand in 2008. Again a young man with plenty of talent and an impressive C.V. -- but he will yet have to prove what he’s worth this season.
DTM 2011 Calendar
|3||June 5||Red Bull Ring||Austria|
|7||September 4||Brands Hatch||Great Britain|
DTM 2011 Drivers
|2||Gary Paffett||GB||Thomas Sabo AMG Mercedes||Thomas Sabo AMG Mercedes C-Klasse (2009)|
|3||Bruno Spengler||CAN||Mercedes-Benz Bank AMG||Mercedes-Benz Bank AMG C-Klasse (2009)|
|4||Timo Scheider||GER||Audi Sport Team Abt||AUTO TEST Audi A4 DTM (2009)|
|5||Oliver Jarvis||GB||Audi Sport Team Abt||Audi Sport performance cars A4 DTM (2009)|
|6||Ralf Schumacher||GER||Salzgitter AMG Mercedes||Salzgitter AMG Mercedes C-Klasse (2009)|
|7||Jamie Green||GB||AMG Mercedes||AMG Mercedes C-Klasse (2009)|
|8||Mattias Ekström||SWE||Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline||Red Bull Audi A4 DTM (2009)|
|9||Mike Rockenfeller||GER||Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline||E-POSTBRIEF Audi A4 DTM (2009)|
|10||Susie Stoddart||GB||TV Spielfilm AMG Mercedes||TV Spielfilm AMG Mercedes C-Klasse (2008)|
|11||Christian Vietoris||GER||Junge Sterne AMG Mercedes||Junge Sterne AMG Mercedes C-Klasse (2008)|
|14||Martin Tomczyk||GER||Audi Sport Team Phoenix||Schaeffler Audi A4 DTM (2008)|
|15||Rahel Frey||DEN||Audi Sport Team Phoenix||Glamour Audi A4 DTM (2008)|
|16||Maro Engel||GER||GQ AMG Mercedes||GQ AMG Mercedes C-Klasse (2008)|
|17||David Coulthard||GB||Deutsche Post AMG Mercedes||Deutsche Post AMG Mercedes C-Klasse (2008)|
|18||Filipe Albuquerque||POR||Audi Sport Team Rosberg||TV Movie Audi A4 DTM (2008)|
|19||Edoardo Mortara||ITA||Audi Sport Team Rosberg||Playboy Audi A4 DTM (2008)|
|20||Renger van der Zande||NL||stern AMG Mercedes||stern AMG Mercedes C-Klasse (2008)|
|22||Miguel Molina||ESP||Audi Sport Team Abt Junior||Red Bull Audi A4 DTM (2008)|
Audi Sport Team Phoenix
Drivers: Martin Tomczyk (14), Rahel Frey (15)
German Martin Tomczyk will be the number one in this team, it will be his 11th season, and with 90 DTM starts he is one of the most experienced drivers on the grid. Until this season he has exclusively raced for Audi Sport Team Sportsline, but this year he will driving for Team Phoenix.
Tomczyk about the season opener, “Every year the season starts at the Hockenheimring. And traveling to this circuit is always a special highlight. Not only because I really like the track but also because the response by the crowd is incredibly strong -- not just at the end but also at the beginning of the season.” And asked about his expectations the 29-year old driver replied: We’ve been very successful on this track in recent years and I’m hoping to manage a good start into this year there.”
Swiss driver Rachel Frey is the second lady competing in this year’s championship. She was mainly active in single seater racing, in 2009 she became the first female driver to win a race in the German Formula 3 series. Her motto is: “Go fast and never give up”. The 24-year old driver is of course looking forward to her first DTM race. “I feel a huge amount of enthusiasm before Hockenheim. I’m really excited about my first DTM race,” she said.
She’s adamant qualifying is crucial this season, “I’ve got to put the performance of the Hankook tires on the track. Qualifying is simply an important base for the race. I’ve decided to be a little patient with respect to my performances. That’s not easy for me because I tend to be very impatient when it comes to such things.”
GQ AMG Mercedes
Driver: Maro Engel (16)
Maro Engel made his DTM debut in 2008 for Mercedes and is also determined to improve his results and it will therefore be no surprise he has thoroughly prepared himself for the new season. “It is clear, I expect a very strong season,” the 25-year old German said. “I’m concentrating on this season and not on 2012, this year is important and I need to score good results. We have prepared ourselves well, and have tested a lot during the winter, I feel well at my team and we expect to score points in Hockenheim.”
Deutsche Post AMG Mercedes
Driver: David Coulthard (17)
The DTM series have traditionally been a refuge for retired Formula One drivers, and Scot David Coulthard joined DTM after he raced his last Grand Prix for the Red Bull Formula One team. So far he has been struggling to find the right pace, mainly because he competed in an older 2008 AMG Mercedes car. But Coulthard nevertheless remains optimistic about this season, “Following my year as DTM apprentice, I’ve set myself the goal to make a step forward this year and work my way further up, in the field.”
And the Scot added, “And I’d love to do so right in the season opener at Hockenheim by tying in to the point-result I secured in last year’s season finale at Shanghai. I’m truly looking forward to the first race and the enthusiastic DTM crowds at Hockenheim.”
Audi Sport Team Rosberg
Drivers: Filipe Albuquerque (18), Edoardo Mortara (19)
Portuguese Albuquerque moved from single seater racing to DTM, he was Formula One test driver for Red Bull and Italian sister squad Toro Rosso. The 25-year old driver was active in several Formula Renault series and in 2006 in the GP2 series. He feels at home with Audi, “I’m an Audi driver -- this is the dream of many racers today.” About his debut he is clear, “I can hardly wait to compete at Hockenheim. It’ll be the first race in the DTM and a test of my own performances. I’m really looking forward to this. This championship is simply great. At the Lausitzring all Audi drivers tested together for the first time. Everything went smoothly. I’m optimistic.”
We only had two days of testing. We’ll be working a lot with the car and the team but my attitude is very positive
Mortara was born in Geneva, Switzerland, but has both the French and Italian nationality, but he prefers to race with an Italian license. He has always raced in single seater series, last year he won the Formula 3 Euro Series. “Hockenheim is my first race in the DTM. It’ll be very difficult for me. I’ve got no experience. We only had two days of testing. We’ll be working a lot with the car and the team but my attitude is very positive and I believe that we’ll be doing a good job,” the French-Italian driver said.
Stern AMG Mercedes
Driver: Renger van der Zande (20)
For Dutchman van der Zande competing in DTM will be a complete new experience. The 25-year old driver only has experience in single seater racing, he participated in several European F3 series, and also raced for A1GP Team Netherlands together with Jeroen Bleekemolen. “I’m really looking forward to the race on Sunday,” he said. “I have worked very hard for this, and Hockenheim will be a learning experience for me. It is a privilege to be on the grid for Mercedes, and I will have to learn a lot about race strategies and pit stops.”
Audi Sport Team Abt Junior
Driver: Miguel Molina(22)
Spaniard Miguel Molina made his DTM debut last year, he is one of the two youngest drivers on the grid -- 22 -- which coincidentally is also his car number this year. He scored 16 points in his rookie season, which meant he landed a 10th position in the championship, ahead of veterans like Alexandre Premat and ex-Formula One drivers Marcus Winkelhock, Schumacher and Coulthard.
But Molina reckons this season will be a lot tougher for him, “T he season opener at Hockenheim will be anything but easy. The new season starts and all of us will begin to use the tires of a new manufacturer. We’ve got to adapt the car to them. Still, I’m optimistic. A year ago I scored a point in my first race. This year I want to start out even better. I want to be competitive from the first race on. I’m ready and want to have a good season.” And the talented driver added, “I’m ready and want to have a good season. My experience will increase, I want my results to improve and I want to help Audi to have a good championship this year.”
A thrilling season ahead
Traditionally, the season kicks off at the German Hockenheimring, and German ARD TV will broadcast all qualifying sessions and races live, this season in HD quality. Last year some 685,000 spectators attended the races, this year the DTM weekends will also feature races of the Formula 3 Euro Series, Porsche Carrera Cup, Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup and SEAT Leon Supercopa. But it is also the last season for the current DTM cars, as a complete new formula will be introduced in 2012.
And with a new tyre supplier, ten races in five different countries, and 18 drivers of nine different nationalities, spectators can once again look forward to a thrilling 2011 DTM season.