Season half-time in DTM: More races, more spectators and more excitement

Success of the new format: The battle for the title still is wide open.

10 races of the 2015 DTM season have been contested. In previous years, all the trophies would have been secured and all the titles won, after this number of races. In 2015, however, it’s just season half-time for teams and drivers.

The new format, featuring – inter alia – two races per weekend is the reason for this altered situation. “We introduced several innovations with the goal to provide the fans attractive and enthralling motor racing and I think that our measures proved to be rather successful,” says ITR Chairman Hans Werner Aufrecht. And a glance at the season so far underlines that he is right with his assessment. Team seniors, drivers and the fans all are convinced of the new regulations.

On every single DTM race weekend, the visitors on site are provided a packed motor-racing programme featuring close and tough wheel-to-wheel battles. Aufrecht: “Altogether, we sold more tickets than in 2014. That’s pleasing and not the norm in international motor racing. The viewing figures of the DTM live coverage of our German TV partner, ARD, also have increased compared to last year. These figures demonstrate that DTM is attractive and interesting for the spectators.” The fascination of DTM is unwaning and the celebrities also don’t want to elude it. At Spielberg, for instance, the DTM meeting lured the likes of Hollywood stars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, his wife, to the racetrack.

The battle for the title really is far from being over.

Hans Werner Aufrecht

Three wins in the first four races – in the recent past of DTM, such a streak of success would have represented a kind of preliminary decision in the battle for the title. On the first race weekends, at Hockenheim and the Lausitzring, Briton Jamie Green dominated the entire field and seemed to be unstoppable. With his successes, he gained a comfortable lead in the drivers’ championship, with his manufacturer definitely proving to be the benchmark, in the first four races. In the second race meeting, at the Lausitzring, all the podium positions were secured by Audi drivers and a walkover of the Ingolstadt based manufacturer seemed to be probable.

Then, however, the competitors struck back. In the tradition-rich meeting at Nuremberg’s Norisring, Mercedes-Benz celebrated back-to-back wins courtesy of Pascal Wehrlein and Robert Wickens. And at Zandvoort, BMW made DTM history: in the Saturday race that was won by Marco Wittmann, all the top-seven positions were secured by BMW – a new manufacturer record in the history of the sport. On the following day, António Félix da Costa crossed the line as race winner, followed by four fellow BMW drivers. And at Spielberg, Audi prevailed in thrilling battles with Mercedes-Benz and was back on top. The winners: Edoardo Mortara and Mattias Ekström. In the 10 races contested in the 2015 season to date, seven drivers already made it to the highest step on the podium. Furthermore, each of the 24 drivers made it to the top 10 and scored championship points at least once.

The consequence of this changeable balance of power: the battle for the title still is wide open. Currently, old hand Mattias Ekström holds the lead with 111 points on his tally. But Edoardo Mortara (98 points), Pascal Wehrlein (94) and Jamie Green (81) – who could score just once, since his fulminant start into the season – follow close behind. Aufrecht: “The battle for the title really is far from being over. Mattias Ekström is my favourite and Pascal Wehrlein the No 1 contender.”

And even beyond the battle for the title, the most popular international touring-car series provides plenty topics to talk about. In addition to the controversial move of Timo Scheider who pushed Robert Wickens and Pascal Wehrlein off the track in the penultimate lap of the Sunday race at Spielberg and later was disqualified for this manoeuvre, the performance weights also caused a lot of discussions. “The performance weights are a good tool that helps us making DTM thrilling and attractive,” underlines Aufrecht. “Just like every regulation and rule, the current system certainly also has got its weaknesses but we are working on eliminating these weaknesses in the near future to improve the system.”

At the same time, the ITR Chairman regards the switch to just one control slick for the 2015 season as positive move: “I think, this makes understanding and reading the races easier for the spectators,” he says. “Particularly for the laymen who don’t regularly watch motor racing. There possibly may be some overtaking-manoeuvres less than in the recent past but on the other hand, any switch in position makes an impact on the standings. The teams lost a tactical component, with the elimination of the option tyres – but for the outsiders, understanding this option was extremely difficult anyway.”

The venues for the 2016 season have not yet been determined. Aufrecht: “I can’t say anything regarding the 2016 calendar. It’s far too early. But I can tell you that I’d love the calendar to again feature 10 race meetings, next year. And there are several circuits that are interested in staging a DTM race meeting.”

In the meantime, the DTM fraternity just can’t wait for contesting its next races. From 28th to 30th August, DTM will make its stop at Moscow to then enter its tight closing-stages-of-the season schedule. After the return from Russia, Oschersleben will be the venue of the next race weekend (11th to 13th September), followed by the Nürburgring (25th to 27th September) and the big season finale at the Hockenheimring from 16th to 18th October.

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