Germany’s Much-Loved DTM Touring Car Championship Starts This Weekend With New Regulations—And Turbos!
The 2019 season of DTM, Germany’s highly advanced touring car racing championship, gets going this weekend at Hockenheim, with a double-header meeting including races on Saturday and Sunday. Yet this time it’s no ordinary new season, as much is different in the category this year. Chief among the changes is it has new turbo engine regulations. The championship’s four-liter V8 naturally-aspirated engines used up until the end of last year are now replaced with turbocharged two-liter inline-four units.
These mean a power increase on last year of around 100bhp, and in addition drivers will also now have access to a ‘Push-to-Pass’ system, giving a short-term 30bhp boost to aid overtaking attempts. The new engines also weigh only just over half as much as the previous spec, at approximately 85kg. And with the change to turbos comes a step into the unknown. “No-one knows where they stand,” admitted head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass. “Qualifying on Saturday will provide an initial indication. But even then we won’t know who will be the best over the racing distance. More than ever before in the DTM, tire management and the driver will be crucial in the race.”
It’s not only the power output that’s different. The number of tire sets available per car and race weekend has been tightened from eight to seven, and for the two qualifying sessions and the two races only five tire sets are now available. And combined with that the new engines are expected to result in higher tire loads. The new turbo engines also mean the race’s standing starts will be more difficult, and made more difficult because the parking brake has been banned and it is not as easy to find the ideal point for preloading the clutch. Drivers also have to get used to modified aerodynamics, which include a much wider rear wing.
There’s also a shift among the competing cars. Mercedes last year ended its long-term association with the championship, yet DTM still has three competing manufacturers, as last October Aston Martin sprung the surprise that it was joining DTM for this 2019 season, with four competing Vantages joining incumbents Audi and BMW.
The first of the two Hockenheim races this weekend also will be the milestone 300th with Audi’s participation since the DTM series’ incarnation in 1984. WRT Team Audi Sport’s entry also will be the first from an Audi customer team in DTM since 2009, and WRT has the youngest driver pairing of 21-year-old Jonathan Aberdein and 22-year-old Pietro Fittipaldi—grandson of motorsport legend Emerson. “The first race of the season is always special,” added 2013 DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller, who has been an Audi driver in the series since 2007. “With the turbo engines and the many other new things we have in the car, the racing will be even more exciting this year. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Images courtesy of Audi Motorsport