Audi's Rockenfeller calls for DTM to equalise pitstops

Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller has called on the DTM to equalise the speed of pitstops between different teams, highlighting the major advantage currently enjoyed by the Red Bull Ferrari team.

Audi's Rockenfeller calls for DTM to equalise pitstops

The AF Corse squad that runs Red Bull’s two-car operation in the DTM stunned the field at Monza last month, introducing a new and faster approach to GT3 pitstops.

Using this technique, the mechanic operating the wheel gun first loosens the front wheel, but, instead of waiting for the fresh tyre to be fitted by another mechanic, runs straight to the other side of the car, completing the entire procedure on the rears. He then swiftly returns to his original position, tightening the wheel at the front.

The clever method allowed AF Corse to service Alex Albon’s Ferrari in a record 6.961 seconds at Monza, while also assisting Liam Lawson’s charge to victory in the opening race at the same venue.

AF Corse did hit some issues last weekend at the Lausitzring, where the honour of the fastest pitstop went to Walkenhorst BMW, but its pitstop times from Monza remained unbeaten.

The Ferrari outfit’s rapid pitstops are made possible by a locking ring that comes with the Ferrari 488 GT3, which ensures the wheel nut doesn’t come loose before the mechanic tightens it.

The Mercedes-AMG GT3 comes equipped with a similar locking ring and the German manufacturer was able to copy AF Corse’s pitstop solution at the Lausitzring, but Audi, BMW and Lamborghini are stuck with their existing systems that have already been homologated by the FIA.

This has irked 2013 DTM champion and Abt Sportsline driver Rockenfeller, who believes AF Corse should be made to follow the same pitstop procedure as the rest of the teams to ensure it doesn’t gain what he feels is an unfair advantage.

“Of course, that shouldn't be the case,” said Rockenfeller about the gap between pitstops times between different teams. “We have to work on equalising that, so that there are at least equal opportunities. 

“It doesn't make sense to bring the cars into the BoP to some extent and then the pitstops always decides the race in the end. So it's certainly not ideal at the moment, especially for us.

“You can find a solution to regulate it in such a way that it's balanced out again. Abt has presented a good proposal and it will be discussed, and it has to be discussed. 

“As per their proposal, you don't release one wheel and then run to the other, but you have to do it like we do with our pitstops, despite the technical advantage [they have]. Not exactly like us, but the advantage of this system shouldn't be there. 

“The advantage they have is that they can do a different choreography that we couldn't do with the technology we have.”

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Rockenfeller added that AF Corse is gaining several seconds in the pitlane, reversing any gains he and Audi are able to make on track.

“We wouldn’t be talking about it if the difference was two or three tenths, we wouldn't even talk about half a second," said the German. “But if you lose two seconds partly because of that, then that can make a difference of three positions. 

“We saw on Saturday, especially now with the Audi, that overtaking is very difficult. The positions you gain are gone.”

Lawson, who sits second in the championship behind Audi’s Kelvin van der Linde, defended his team’s unique pitstop solution, saying there is no reason why the DTM should outlaw it.

“Maybe Audi can design some wheel guns that go off with the gun or stay in the wheel, because it’s not our fault that we are able to do this,” he said. 

“Obviously we started with this at Monza and it was something very strong for us but others have started to follow along and have similar pitstop times. 

“In motorsport there are little things to try and get the most out of, like pitstops. It’s not on track, it’s little things that we can gain.

“I appreciate that we were able to do that in the first weekend and it was definitely one of our strengths and still is. For sure, other teams are definitely going to follow up, but from my side I obviously don’t think anything should be done.”

 

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