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DTM season preview 2012: DTM presses the reset button

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DTM season preview 2012
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I n the vocabulary of the DTM there is hardly a phrase that is more common was brought up as: 'The third manufacturer.' Thousands of questions were asked about the third, the series organizers and the sports superiors from Audi and Mercedes answered a thousand times. Sometimes dismissive ('You can't say anything about that'), sometimes conspiratorial ('We are in confidential talks'), sometimes self-confident ('We have a great stage to offer with the DTM').

Now the time has come: number three in the league is here. 20 years after the factory exit from the DTM at the end of the 1992 season, BMW is coming back, after long (and for many incomprehensible) interludes in the European Touring Car Championship and later in the World Touring Car Championship, where they secured a few titles, but it did regrettably had to deal with opponents whose image is only in the second line. BMW drove against Chevrolet, Seat, Alfa Romeo and also Lada, and at some point the question was asked in Munich: Is this really the right environment for our premium cars?

BMW comeback in the DTM is only logical

The answer is not difficult to guess. In the market, the opponents are Audi and Mercedes. So the step towards the DTM was only logical. The series promoter ITR attracted BMW with new regulations - which the technicians from Munich were also busy working on. It was clear that a newcomer would only have a chance against the exhausted works teams from Audi and Mercedes if the cards were reshuffled according to the rules. Not because the BMW guys weren't up for it, but simply owed to the fact that the long-time residents have a huge advantage in experience in dealing with the cars.

The ITR pressed the reset -Stud. In 2012, a new generation of cars will take the stage. However, they offer tangible advantages: safety has been further improved, and thanks to many standard components, it has become significantly cheaper to build a DTM car. According to reports, the price for a DTM speedster fell from just under one million euros to a little more than half. It should be noted, however, that such numbers should be treated with caution. Because, like much in racing, the allocation of budgets is heavily dependent on interpretation. How are the development costs allocated? How are in-house services charged? And, and, and.

The viewers are only marginally interested in the costs. Important from the fans' point of viewis rather: Is the show right? As far as optics are concerned, the matter is clear. The new ones are wider and flatter than their predecessors, they come across as beefy. The DTM cars are now better equipped for heavy duels: Flics and winglets have largely been dispensed with. So far, these aero aids often flew away with slight enemy contact, which often led to dramatically poorer driving behavior. So for a long time the rule was: Always keep your distance from your opponent if you don't want to risk ruining your own race. In terms of exciting races, this maxim is of course rather a hindrance.

More action in the new DTM?

When it comes to the question of whether more will be overtaken in the new DTM than before, they are Scholars still do not agree. The aerodynamics should be severely cut according to the ideas of the rule experts. Apparently this plan did not work. The 2012 DTM cars produce a remarkable amount of downforce. 'The contact pressure is much higher than, for example, a Daytona prototype,' swears DTM newcomer Joey Hand, one of the BMW drivers.

Some experienced drivers came to similar conclusions after the test drives: The new ones Cars are between one and two seconds faster per lap, depending on the route, they say. This with the same engine output of almost 500 hp and 50 kilograms higher weight. There are only two explanations for this: on the one hand, the higher grip of the latest Hankook standard tires, on the other hand, more downforce.

Experience has shown that high downforce values ​​are bad if you want to spice up the races with dozens of overtaking maneuvers. On the other hand, one has to ask: Are inflationary position shifts any good? Is that what the fans want to see? Or is it better if overtaking maneuvers are rather rare - and thus real highlights of the racing weekend?

Master Tomczyk in action for BMW

Newcomer BMW is going with a mixture of DTM top dogs and rookies into the race. The leaders are the reigning champion Martin Tomczyk from Rosenheim, who came from Audi, and the Canadian Bruno Spengler, who finished third in the championship in 2011 in his seventh DTM year with Mercedes. For the Briton Andy Priaulx, the three-time touring car world champion, and for the Brazilian Augusto Farfus, the DTM is just as new as it is for the Americans Joey Hand and Dirk Werner, the second German in the BMW line-up.

Continuity counts at Audi. The team line-up consists almost exclusively of proven forces: the two ex-champions Mattias Ekström from Sweden as well as Timo Scheider from the Koblenz area, the Neuwied-born Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, the Italian Edoardo Mortara, the Spaniard Miguel Molina, the Portuguese Felipe Albuquerque and the Swiss Rahel Frey. Frenchman Adrien Tambay is new to the Audi team.

Five of the eight drivers of the Mercedes C-Coupé areLong-time friends: The four Britons Gary Paffett, Jamie Green, David Coulthard and Susie Wolff (formerly Stoddart) are on board again, as is the German Christian Vietoris, who made his DTM debut in 2011. Ralf Schumacher is entering his fourth DTM year. The Canadian Robert Wickens, overall winner of the Formula Renault World Series, and Formula 3 champion Roberto Merhi from Spain are new.

Real three-way battle in the DTM?

Strictly speaking, the DTM experiences in This year, for the first time since their restart in spring 2000, a real three-way battle. Between 2000 and 2005 there were always cars from three different brands - Audi, Mercedes and Opel - but only two of the manufacturers were able to win.

In 2000 the hot-knitted Abt-Audi TT emerged -R simply considered too harmless for great success. In the first year, Opel and Mercedes shared their successes as brothers: each brand won eight times. When Audi came from the factory and celebrated its first victories with the Abt team, the Opel glory was long gone. For five years, until 2005, the Opel racers chased a victory in vain. Then they hoisted the white flag and got out.

In the following six years, from 2006 to 2011, the works delegations from Audi and Mercedes persisted with tenacious zeal. And they achieved what many hardly thought possible: The DTM survived, and not badly.

Guesswork before the season opener

Those in charge of the works teams say before the start of a new season what you just say in sport, when you know your own capabilities, but don't know exactly what your opponent is really capable of. There is talk of 'conscientious preparation', the 'great stage' is also often mentioned and, of course, the 'excellent basis' that one's own car offers. And the motivation is right anyway.

But in motorsport it's like in football: the answer is given on the pitch. On April 29th in Hockenheim. The result of the first race should be viewed with a bit of caution. 'But a week after that we're driving at the Lausitzring, on a track with completely different characteristics,' says Head of Audi Sport Wolfgang Ullrich. 'Only then do you really know where you stand.'

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