Six reasons to watch DTM in 2023 after ADAC takeover
2023 marks the start of a brand new era for the DTM following its takeover by ADAC. With several big names returning to the grid, plenty of new faces making their debuts and ADAC instigating a number of changes, the 2023 DTM season promises to be a cracker…
Gerhard Berger’s decision to shut down the ITR and sell the brand rights of the DTM at the end of last year came as a shock to many, including those that were part of the championship. However, it has brought the DTM under the umbrella of ADAC, Germany’s premier automobile club, and it can only take the series to greater heights in the coming years.
ADAC has been treating the DTM as its prized possession ever since the takeover was completed and it was even ready to demote GT Masters as a second-tier category as part of its ‘DTM Endurance’ plans, although it did have to backtrack on that idea in the face of opposition from teams and drivers.
ADAC is keen on growing the DTM in its core German-speaking markets and has made a number of changes that should make it more attractive to fans as well those competing in the championship.
Combine that with a strong line-up of teams and drivers, there are plenty of reasons for fans to tune in for this weekend’s opening round at Oschersleben.
Rene Rast in a BMW
René Rast, Schubert Motorsport BMW M4 GT3
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
Rene Rast is easily the DTM’s biggest and the most recognisable star and the three-time champion will be back on the grid this year, except this time in BMW colours.
Rast’s success has been synonymous with Audi so it would be almost unnatural for fans to see him represent a rival brand, but it will be interesting to see how he will fare in the BMW M4 GT3.
Rast did take some time getting used to the Audi R8 LMS GT3 again following a 2021 sabbatical that followed the DTM’s move away from Class 1 cars, but once up to speed he was able to challenge for race wins and the championship again - eventually ending up a strong third in the standings behind Sheldon van der Linde and Lucas Auer.
To make matters more interesting, van der Linde will be his team-mate at Schubert Motorsport this year and Rast will have to come up with his best in order to give the South African a run for his money.
Following pre-season testing, Rast was unsure if he will ever be able to fully gel with the M4 GT3, but it would be foolish to even think that he would struggle to adapt to the car this year.
A championship assault is unlikely as he will be forced to miss the Zandvoort round due to clashing commitments with McLaren in Formula E, but the 36-year-old can be counted on to be a potent contender for victories and podiums on a regular basis.
Last Audi season?
Ricardo Feller, Team ABT Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
Despite the best efforts of customer racing boss Chris Reinke and new motorsport head Rolf Michl, there is growing evidence that suggests Audi will shut down its customer racing division at the end of 2023, meaning it could be the last season in which cars from the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer will race in the DTM.
Audi’s GT3 programme has been on a steady decline in recent years with several of its big-name factory drivers jumping ship, and a decline in its annual budget has only made things worse.
However, fans of Audi will get to see its ultra-successful R8 LMS GT3 in the DTM for at least one more season this year and they will be hoping that the German manufacturer can depart the series on a high.
Abt Sportline will lead Audi’s charge in the DTM following the demise of Team Rosberg, with the German team running a pair of cars this year for factory driver Ricardo Feller and Kelvin van der Linde, the latter now competing independently of Audi and signing directly with Abt.
The rebranded Attempto Orange1 team will expand to two cars this year for Mattia Drudi and Patric Niederhauser, while Luca Engstler will pilot the fifth and the final Audi on the grid this year for his family-run Engstler Motorsport team.
The R8 LMS GT3 received a second Evo upgrade package only last year and one can expect it to be reasonably competitive against its rivals, particularly in the hands of Abt duo Feller and van der Linde.
Jack Aitken among fresh faces
Jack Aitken, Emil Frey Racing
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
Nine drivers will be making their DTM debuts at Oschersleben this weekend but one name that will stand out from the rest is Jack Aitken. A one-time race starter in Formula 1, Aitken will drive a Ferrari 296 GT3 for Emil Frey Racing.
Having already proven his credentials with Emil Frey in GT Masters and GT World Challenge Europe in recent years, and further underlined his capabilities in prototypes with Cadillac in the IMSA SportsCar Championship this year, Aitken will surely be worth watching out for this season. Missing Zandvoort won’t be ideal for his rookie campaign, but Aitken hopes to be in a position to challenge for victories towards the end of the season.
Rising Mercedes young driver Jusuf Owega also has the potential to create headlines and, having been given the chance to drive for last year’s title-winning GT Masters team Landgraf, he will have the right people around him to allow his talent to shine.
Elsewhere, Tim Heinemann will make the step up to DTM after winning back-to-back titles in the GT4-based DTM Trophy, and will be a part of a six-strong DTM attack from Porsche.
Factory Lamborghini driver Franck Perera, Porsche ace Christian Engelhart and Bernhard driver Ayhancan Guven will all be competing in their first full seasons in the DTM, although the three got one race outing each last season as replacement drivers.
Big names return to DTM
2023 DTM class
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
While several drivers on the 2023 DTM grid might appear anonymous to an international audience, and it’s unfortunate to see the trend of pay drivers continuing in the series since its GT3 switchover, there will be no shortage of top-line professional racers in this year’s field.
Apart from Rast, Feller, brothers Sheldon and Kelvin van der Linde, the 2023 grid will be headlined by several high-calibre factory and professional racers, many with race-winning and championship-winning experience.
Two-time DTM title winner Marco Wittmann will lead the new Project 1 team as a factory BMW driver and will be hoping to give a tough fight to stablemates Rast and van der Linde after a 2022 season in which he was held back by a lack of testing on the M4 with his previous team Walkenhorst Motorsport.
Lamborghini will have two top-line drivers in Mirko Bortolotti and Franck Perera, both racing for the SSR Performance team that has made the jump from Porsche machinery over the winter. Bortolotti was one of the star performers of 2023 and, together with Perera, Lamborghini will be aiming to finally bag its first victory in the DTM this year.
Mercedes will be hoping to recapture title glory with Luca Stolz (HRT), Lucas Auer (Winward) and Maro Engel (Landgraf) after losing 2021 champion Maximilian Gotz from its line-up. Stolz, Auer and Engel are all race winners in the DTM and Auer even challenged for the 2022 title, missing out by just 11 points to the younger of the van der Linde brothers.
Dennis Olsen and Thomas Preining will be teaming up at Manthey EMA after both impressed as rookies last year, scoring all three of Porsche’s wins between them.
Car group shoot
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
ADAC has made a number of changes to the sporting regulations after taking over the DTM from Berger’s ITR operation.
Firstly, the length of the races will be increased by five minutes to an hour plus one lap, enabling more on-track action.
Points will now be awarded all the way down to 15th place (25-20-16-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1), a marked change from the F1-style scoring system where only the top 10 drivers received points. The top three drivers in qualifying will continue to get bonus points, but there will be no extra incentive for the fastest lap in the race.
Success ballast will continue to be used in DTM, but the top three finishers from each race will only have to carry 20, 10 and five kilograms of extra weight to the next race as instead of 25, 15 and five kilos previously.
The Balance of Performance will now be handled by SRO, which is also responsible for equalising the speed of cars in other ADAC categories including GT Masters. In the last two seasons, AVL was responsible for determining the BoP in the DTM.
Following criticisms about the Indy restart procedure, which some claim contributed to a crashfest at Hockenheim last year, the DTM will switch to flying restarts in 2023.
The pit window, meanwhile, has been shortened to between the 20th and 40th minute of the race. Earlier, drivers could complete their mandatory pitstops as soon as the 10th minute of the race.
The DTM will also introduce a MotoGP-style long lap penalty system which the drivers will have to pass at a speed of 50km/h. It will cost them roughly five seconds.
But the biggest change of all will be the switch to Pirelli tyres, which are markedly different from Michelin rubber most of the DTM drivers are familiar with. The Pirellis not only vary in durability to the Michelins, but they also require a lot more time to get up to temperature. With no tyre heating allowed in the DTM, drivers will face an uphill battle to stay ahead of the competition on their outlaps.
Thomas Preining, Manthey/EMA Porsche GT3-R
Photo by: Markus Toppmöller
Six of the eight rounds in 2023 will take place in Germany, as part of the decision initially taken by ITR to focus more on German-speaking nations. This means the 2023 calendar looks vastly different to recent years, when races were equally split between Germany and the rest of Europe.
Both Portimao and Imola have been dropped to make way for Oschersleben and Sachsenring, two circuits that are returning to DTM after lengthy gaps.
Oschersleben was a regular fixture on the DTM calendar since the series’ rebirth in 2000 and it was only dropped in 2016, when Hungaroring returned to the schedule. Its narrow and winding course will pose a challenge to drivers, with Sheldon van der Linde explaining it doesn’t offer “a moment for a mental break” based on his previous experience in GT Masters.
The other returning venue is Sachsenring, which is best known for hosting the German round of MotoGP since 1998. Sachsenring was featured in the first three seasons of the ‘new DTM’ from 2000 to 2002, but is now making a comeback after more than two decades. Some drivers and teams already have raced at the Sachsenring from their time in GT Masters.
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