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German Touring Car Masters: DTM starts its anniversary season

Wolfgang Wilhelm
10 years of DTM
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The entrepreneur Hans Werner Aufrecht from Affalterbach in Swabia is not one who openly shows the really big feelings. But when on May 28, 2000 in Hockenheim 19 V8 touring cars from Mercedes , Opel and Abt- Audi went off for the first race of the new DTM also the co-founder of A MG-Mercedes a little touched. 'I know it sounds very pathetic,' says Aufrecht, as if he had to apologize for his enthusiasm. 'But it was almost like the birth of a child.'

In the early 1980s, Aufrecht was one of the founding fathers of the DTM . The new championship developed rapidly: Huge starting fields and tough door-to-door duels ensured a huge audience. But the old DTM had a weaving flaw: regardless of (financial) losses, the technicians were very colorful back then.

The old DTM was too expensive

There were two-week intervals sometimes huge technology updates. As long as the high-tech creations of that time looked similar to their series counterparts, everything was fine. Whether four-wheel drive, ABS or automatically adjustable stabilizers, whether radiator shutters, movable rear wings, semi-automatic or ballast weights that automatically move back and forth: all these features made the DTM cars extremely expensive and capricious racing cars.

The example of the Opel Calibra 4x4 from 1996, Manuel Reuter's master car, makes the whole insanity particularly clear: just to start the engine, three non-Opel engineers had to come: one man each from Cosworth (to look after the V6 naturally aspirated engine), from Williams (for the high-pressure hydraulics) and from Bosch (for the electronics). Logically, the budgets exploded. It is guaranteed that the R├╝sselsheimers spent 112 million marks on the old DTM in the last year. Adjusted for purchasing power, this is more than twice as much as a current DTM budget.

Alfa and Opel left the DTM

In 1996 the whole magic was suddenly over:Alfa and Opel got out at the same time. The rule makers of the new DTM had learned from the mistakes of the past: The issue of costs suddenly had priority. The new touring car formula, the most important cornerstones of which have only been modified insignificantly since 2000, forced the technology-loving designers into a tight corset: many identical parts, including brakes and gearboxes as well as standard tires from Dunlop, helped to save.

Exotic materials were (and are) forbidden as well as all-wheel drive and electronic driving aids. The mandatory air flow limiters of the V8 engines lowered the speed level from previously up to 12,000 rpm to a maximum of 7,500 rpm. This did the life of the engines very well: Today's DTM engines run 5,000 kilometers and more without complaint, that is, an entire racing season. In the old DTM, the engines were sometimes even changed every hour.

Swing to reason - the DTM continues to deliver a good show

But this panning towards reason did not detract from the show: The four-liter engines create almost 500 hp. This is countered by an empty weight of just over a ton - good prerequisites for brisk times. A comparison of the fastest lap times in the race shows something astonishing: On the 2.3 kilometer long Nuremberg Norisring, the only track on the DTM calendar that has remained practically unchanged since 2000, the DTM riders are now 2.9 seconds faster than in the founding year 2000.

This time gain is largely due to the aerodynamics: 'At first the new DTM cars didn't have too much downforce,' remembers DTM record champion Bernd Schneider. But the tireless tinkering in the wind tunnel paid off. At least in terms of lap time, less so in terms of the show. 'Today's cars have a lot of downforce,' explains two-time champion Mattias Ekstr├Âm. 'That's why overtaking is so difficult now.'

Less action on the track

But there is still two other factors that explain why bold attacks on the vehicle in front have become quite rare in recent years. 'The performance density of the DTM drivers has never been as high as it is today,' says Schneider. 'Of course, there are fewer overtaking maneuvers than before, when 35 cars were at the start and the first was five seconds faster than the last.'

The second reason for the reluctance of some pilots to take on impetuous actions is this Force to maneuver. 'If you want to race for the title, you have to be a little more careful in the duels,' says Timo Scheider. In the last two years, the Audi driver did almost everything right: He won the championship two times in a row - a feat that Bernd Schneider last achieved in 2000 and 2001.

The relegation ofOpel

At that time, three manufacturers were still on board: Opel and Mercedes shared the victories fraternally: Both brands triumphed eight times each. However, the drivers of the Audi TT-R, which the Abt team developed in-house, drove the field ahead of them. But the tide soon turned, also because the TT-R got a much longer wheelbase. Laurent Aiello took four race wins in 2001 - and the Frenchman even won the title the following year.

With Opel, 2000 runner-up with Manuel Reuter, things went downhill rapidly. For five years, from 2001 to 2005, there was no more victory, and the sports director Volker Strycek was getting thinner and thinner, as if the suffering resulting from the failure had an appetite suppressant.

Mercedes & Audi: happy two-way relationship

Since 2006, Audi and Mercedes have had a happy two-way relationship. Many did not think it possible that this could work in the long term. They were taught better. People kept fighting, even when there was a row: Like in Barcelona 2007, when Audi was insulted after a few bumps and pits all the cars in the middle of the race and stopped.

It will be in summer new regulations for the years 2011 and following presented. The key points are clear, says Aufrecht: 'The DTM must offer equal opportunities for everyone, it must also become cheaper and even safer.'


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