New Engines, New Cars, and LIVE and FREE
With the addition of new turbo-powered and luxury car brand, Aston Martin, a stunning new era of DTM begins at Hockenheim this weekend (3-5 May). The build-up to the 33rd season of the touring car series has been dominated by the introduction of the new four-cylinder turbo-charged engines, arrival of newcomers Aston, the debut of the first new customer team for several years, the return of Zolder, the track that hosted the first-ever DTM race back in 1984, and the daunting challenge faced by five hopeful, young rookie drivers.
“Finally, the racing will be back under the spotlight,” explains Gerhard Berger, Chairman of the DTM umbrella organisation ITR, ahead of the first of nine DTM weekends in 2019. “Given the new regulations, it is extremely difficult to accurately say who will be at the front.”
Critical to the spectacle will be the series’ newcomers Aston Martin, the venerable British brand operating under the exclusive licence of the Swiss R-Motorsport team. Despite a breakneck development and build programme, R-Motorsport has confirmed that there will be four Aston Martin Vantage DTMs on the Hockenheim grid. These will be driven by former champion Paul Di Resta (GBR), Daniel Juncadella (ESP), and newcomers Ferdinand von Habsburg (AUT) and Jake Dennis (GBR).
Five youngsters make their DTM debuts
There will be five DTM newcomers at Hockenheim. In addition to Habsburg and Dennis, South African Sheldon van der Linde (BMW), Jonathan Aberdein and Pietro Fittipaldi (both Audi) are all competing for DTM points for the first time. The young Brazilian, test driver for the Haas Formula 1 team, is the grandson of double F1 World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi.
While Aberdein and Fittipaldi make up the new WRT Audi customer team, the Ingolstadt marque’s six factory cars are made up of tried-and-tested mix of champions and experienced racers, including former champions René Rast and Mike Rockenfeller (both GER); Nico Müller (SUI), Loïc Duval (FRA), Robin Frijns (NED) and Jamie Green (GBR) take up the remaining seats. BMW, too, has opted more for age and experience: former F1 driver Timo Glock is joined by double DTM champion Marco Wittmann (both GER), former champ Bruno Spengler (CAN), Philipp Eng (AUT), Joel Eriksson (SWE) and van der Linde.
“Cool turbo sound”
Wittmann is a big fan of the new regulations: “I’m pleased that we have more power,” he says. “We drivers feel it – and it’s visible to the fans from outside the car. The turbo sound of the cars is very cool. We can all look forward to a great start to the new season.” Aston Martin driver Juncadella says: “We have to be realistic. We have a car that has been designed and built in a short time, so we still need to test and understand a lot. On the first race weekend, I’m not looking that much at the results yet. But I’m a racing driver and, of course, I always want to win.”
In the meantime, the current DTM champion Gary Paffett will be watching closely from afar. The Brit has moved on to Formula E after Mercedes’ departure last year. “The DTM has played a special role in my life,” he says. ‘In 2019, the DTM has had the courage to embark on a new path – with a new set of technical regulations. For me, from my new perspective as a fan, it will be very intriguing to see how the balance of power develops.”
More power, less downforce
Under the bonnet, the new, efficient two-litre, four-cylinder turbo-charged units deliver about 610 hp and 650 Nm of torque. The minimum weight of the cars has also been lowered, to 986 kilograms. Compared to last year, the new-generation DTM Cars are about three seconds faster per lap. The new regs have also brought about a change in driving style, not least because of a new rear wing that works in conjunction with a modified rear diffuser and new front-end that produces lower downforce, and increased straight-line speeds.
The net outcome is that the cars should be more challenging for the drivers. Pre-grid ‘launch control’ has also been banned, placing even greater emphasis on the drivers. And their handling of the clutch off the line. “The start will be one of the biggest challenges for us drivers,” says Audi driver Rockenfeller. “For me it’s still a big challenge, which I hope to get a grip on quickly.”
New to the calendar: Zolder, Assen – and Fuji’s show-stopping encore
DTM will travel to two new racetracks in 2019. The first will mark an emotional return to Zolder, the Belgian track hosted the first-ever DTM race back in 1984, and was a mainstay for much of the 1980s and ’90s. Dutch circuit Assen, which has been an integral part of the MotoGP calendar for years, will be entirely new for the DTM.
In November, race fans will be treated to a very special encore. At the Fuji Speedway, the DTM and the Japanese SUPER GT series will host a joint non-championship event. The previous month, at the DTM season finale in Hockenheim, a small number of SUPER GT vehicles will participate in the DTM race without competing for points. The cars of both series are based on the jointly developed “CLASS 1” regulations. At Hockenheim, Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Honda, Lexus and Nissan will therefore stage an historic summit.
Source: DTM Media