High-level visions for 2019
The DTM is entering a new era in 2019. What does the new concept of the popular touring car series with turbo instead of naturally aspirated engines promise? What is to be expected of the first joint race of the DTM with the Japanese Super GT? Answers from Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass and DTM CEO Gerhard Berger in a joint interview.
Dieter Gass: “In the DTM, motorsport fans can basically – and that again goes for 2019 – look forward to super-thrilling motorsport. And with Aston Martin’s participation this will no doubt be elevated to another all-new level.”
Gerhard Berger: “For the DTM, 2019 marks the beginning of a new era. Thanks to the new turbo engines, the cars will have clearly more power. We’re talking about a new power-to-weight level that will pose new challenges to the drivers as well as to the engineers. We expect that as a result the racing will become even more thrilling than before.”
What distinguishes the DTM from the WTCR? For the fans, the cars look the same at first glance.
Dieter Gass: “For me, a DTM car and a WTCR car do not look the same at first glance. I do see clear differences in them. In addition, obviously, a DTM car is a lot more spectacular: firstly because it has a lot more power output; secondly, because the field in the DTM is a lot more balanced, without any Balance of Performance rules. And thirdly, because, due to the concept of rear-wheel drive, a DTM car runs in a much more spectacular way than a WTCR car with front-wheel drive.”
Gerhard Berger: “This comparison is flawed – like comparing Formula 1 with Formula 3. The DTM is professional top-calibre racing with high-performance rear-wheel drive cars and the WTCR is production-based customer sport using front-wheel drive vehicles with half the power output.”
Dieter Gass: “First of all, I’m happy that from 2019 onwards we’ll finally be racing with the four-cylinder turbo engine instead of the naturally aspirated V8 engines, and thus with higher power output. This move had actually been planned already for 2017 and was postponed by two years on account of a veto by Mercedes. That’s why it was all the more unfortunate that Mercedes left the DTM at the end of 2018 anyhow. That’s why I’m happy that apart from the new engine we’re going to have two other new elements in the game starting in 2019: firstly, from the Audi Sport side of the house with our new partner, WRT, we will be working together for the first time with a customer team that will be on a factory level in terms of technology. And, last but not least, I’m incredibly delighted about Aston Martin’s new entry. The participation of this international premium manufacturer is beneficial for the entire series.”
Gerhard Berger: “I’m very excited, not least due to the many innovations. There are still some question marks: will Audi and BMW in view of new engines and changed aerodynamics instantly be battling on an equal footing? How will the new brand, Aston Martin, fare? How will the fans respond to the ample supporting programme?
THE COUNTERS HAVE BEEN RESET TO ZERO. THAT IN ITSELF MAKES FOR EXCITEMENT AND SUSPENSE.
Dieter Gass: “The main change is that we have a turbo engine delivering about 100 more horsepower. That in itself is a major difference. It will be a new, difficult challenge because such a turbo engine is a lot more difficult in terms of the setup. This means that we need to invest a great deal in the engine’s drivability. At the same time it’s very important that we’re now racing in the DTM with a four-cylinder turbo engine, in other words an efficiency engine we use in a large number of our production cars as well. Our drivers have been totally thrilled about it ever since the first test. The related higher tyre wear, especially on the driven rear wheels, will pose a particular challenge to the drivers.”
Gerhard Berger: “For drivers and engineers, quite a bit will change. The data gathered with the V8 cars in recent years are no longer of any use. Responsiveness, power development and torque curve of the turbo engines are different – and so are the braking points, cornering radii and the driving style for the drivers. The counters have been reset to zero. That in itself makes for excitement and suspense.”
Mr Berger, you often compare the DTM with the MotoGP. Is the DTM coming closer due to the more powerful engines? Will it now offer the frequently cited ‘cannon ball ride’ or will there be even more in future?
Gerhard Berger: “It’s not the ultimate ride yet but clearly coming closer to it. It’s important to me to point out that I’m not the only one expressing the wish for a ‘cannon ball ride’. The likes of Walter Röhrl, Valentino Rossi or Marc Márquez have been commenting time and time again on their clear idea of powerful, challenging sports equipment. The response to the new DTM cars we’ve been receiving from the fans speaks for itself too.”
The DTM deliberately uses efficient turbo engines, so continuing to rely on internal combustion technology. Why?
Dieter Gass: “This is an initial step. We’ve been engaged in discussions with the ITR about how to proceed from here for a long time. Obviously, we always have to remain focused on costs, but we definitely are looking into areas such as the introduction of synthetic fuels and hybrid technology.”
Gerhard Berger: “Hybrid or other forward-thinking powertrain technologies are definitely a topic for the DTM. We’re not opposed to this, but should take one step after the other. A hybrid must have a positive effect on the performance of the racing cars. A costly technology that will make the cars a lot heavier and, in the worst case, slower, makes no sense. That could not be communicated credibly and so would not be relevant for manufacturers.”
Gerhard Berger: “Basically, anything is conceivable. As said before, it must add value to the sport, plus the technology must be affordable for such a motorsport category. In addition, it must not be fielded at the expense of spectacular and authentic racing. Otherwise, the fans will turn away from it.”
What will change in the 2019 DTM due to Aston Martin’s entry and the return of customer teams?
Dieter Gass: “I expect Aston Martin to present itself on an equal footing, not least because their racing commitment will be operated by HWA. They’re going to be able to contribute their entire experience from all their years with Mercedes to this project. With our customer team, WRT, we at Audi Sport are working together with a highly professional team that has celebrated many successes in Audi’s customer racing programme for years. Now WRT wants to take the next step and move up to a higher level. I believe that they’re absolutely capable of achieving this and do expect some positive surprises here and there.”
Gerhard Berger: “For one, a fascinating marque with motorsport tradition is now on board in the DTM. For the other, the Swiss R-Motorsport team that’s exclusively licenced by Aston Martin embodies the internationalisation of the DTM. Nobody can claim anymore that the DTM is an all-German series.”
Dieter Gass: “Well, Zolder is not a really new race track for the DTM. The DTM used to race there in the past. It’s a classic, challenging circuit that particularly the drivers will like. Assen is a completely unknown quantity for all of us and in the past was primarily known as a motorcycle race track. I’ve never been there myself.”
Gerhard Berger: “Zolder is one of the circuits the DTM has traditionally raced on, even as far back as in the 1980s. It’s not a super-modern race track but the organiser is very committed to the event. I’d like to remind everyone that the first DTM race in 1984 was held at Zolder, so in a manner of speaking, we’re returning to our birthplace. Plus, due to its proximity to Germany and the Netherlands, Zolder is an attractive venue for fans. So let’s be surprised! Assen is an ultramodern circuit the MotoGP races on too. ITR has found a very committed and motivated organiser there as well.”
Dieter Gass: “Thinking about Zolder immediately brings back memories of the following anecdote: in 1991, as part of the Renault one-make cup, so-called ‘Internations Races’ were held. Before our German round at Zolder, a race took place in Monaco. I was nominated for it after having won the season opener at Hockenheim. The Monaco race was pretty much of a crash festival where I went off track in the tunnel as early as in free practice and destroyed my car in a major way. After a makeshift repair, I was still able to achieve seventh place overall. However, the analysis after the Monaco race showed that car was factually a total loss. Obviously, there was no time or money to prepare it again from scratch for Zolder, so I obtained a special permission from Renault to compete with a damaged car. So, that’s how we went to Zolder. There our rivals, most of them not having raced in Monaco, critically eyeballed my car. Even so – with no worry about the hardware – I clinched what was arguably the clearest pole position in my career. In the race, after half of lap one, I was leading. At the end of the third turn from last, I looked into my rear-view mirror. At that moment, I was very slightly carried towards the outside and the left front wheel slipped outwards across the kerb. I crashed the wheel on the edge in the process which naturally caused me to immediately retire – that was a shame but, still, a highlight in a way.”
“Honestly speaking, I rather recall my Formula 3 races at Zolder, but I also contested my only DTM race there – in 1985, in a BMW 635 CSi from Schnitzer.”
What can fans look forward to at the first joint race of the DTM and Super GT planned for 2019?
Dieter Gass: “This will be a super-spectacle when we’ll be on the grid with six manufacturers and more than twenty cars. It’ll turn into a fireworks display of motorsport.”
Gerhard Berger: “I’m looking forward to a hopefully spectacular event that will go down in motorsport history. For the first time, the three major manufacturers from Japan and three European top-calibre brands will be pitted against each other based on the joint ‘CLASS 1’ regulations. That can turn into a thriller. The race is the result of the long-standing efforts of the ITR and GTA that started as early as in the era of Hans Werner Aufrecht as ITR boss.”
Dieter Gass: “We’re interested in a further internationalisation. Placing and operating as high-calibre a championship as the DTM strictly in Germany is very difficult in the medium and long term. That’s why a further internationalisation is very attractive and important. Aston Martin’s participation marks an important initial step in this direction. Another important step will be to change the name of the DTM. Whenever it came to attracting the interest of new manufacturers in the DTM in recent years we repeatedly experienced that the D in the DTM’s brand name is a stumbling block for international manufacturers. That’s why we welcome the fact that internationalisation will be reflected in a new name as well.”
Gerhard Berger: “The aim is to become more international step by step and to organise more races on a global level. We’re proceeding cautiously in this endeavour. You can’t force this from one year to the next.”
What proposals do both of you have for a new name for DTM?
Dieter Gass: “This would be an inappropriate advance. I’d rather lean back and let myself be surprised about what the people who are dealing with this project will come up with in this regard.”
Gerhard Berger: “It’s no secret that we’re working on this. The stronger international characteristics of the series are supposed to be expressed from 2020 on as well. But it’s too early yet for initial proposals.”
Dieter Gass: “Gerhard, my wish for you is that your hard work of the past two years will continue to bear fruit. And that we’ll jointly manage to inspire the enthusiasm of other new manufacturers for the DTM.”
Gerhard Berger: “I work really well with you, Dieter, just like with the other heads of motorsport. It’s in the nature of things that the interests of the DTM promotor, ITR, are not always identical to the interests of the manufacturers, especially the engineering side of the house. We always seek solutions that are in the best interests of the series and I realise that you, Dieter, in your dual role as Head of Audi Motorsport and member of the ITR executive council have had to do some persuading in your own organisation with respect to some of our joint decisions. You’ve been doing a really good job of that so far and my wish for you is that in 2019 you’ll continue to be successful in this endeavour.”
How do you like the new Audi RS 5 DTM, Mr Berger?
Gerhard Berger: “To me, the new DTM cars look even more aggressive than the previous ones. This the result of the many scoops in the front section owing to the increased need for cooling air supply for the new turbo engines. Audi did a good job of achieving this. I like the RS 5 DTM.”
And how do you like the ‘old’ Gerhard Berger, Mr Gass?
Dieter Gass: “What I like about Gerhard Berger, no matter how old he is, is the fact that you can talk to him in all frankness, discuss things with him and even get into an argument with him but soon afterwards return to a constructive level and, in doing so, really keep moving forwards.”
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