Why You Should Watch… DTM

Why You Should Watch

Daniel Juncadella, Mercedes C-Coupe AMG DTM, 2014The German Touring Car Masters – DTM – is a cut above other touring car championships in terms of the sophistication of the machinery and the quality of competitors it attracts.

BMW’s arrival two years ago as a third manufacturer alongside long-time rivals Mercedes and Audi was a shot in the arm for the championship which has spurred the level of competition to new heights.

Having tweaked the formula to improve the on-track action, the DTM is now forming ambitious plans for global expansion. The series will return to China later this year – a major market for Germany’s premium car manufacturers – and is even considering an American championship.

The level of technology and professionalism in the championship is arguably exceeded only by Formula One, and drivers like Paul di Resta have shown it is possible to graduate from it to the sport’s top flight.

That makes the DTM a uniquely important and competitive player in international motorsport. Here’s a few more reasons why you should tune in to this weekend’s opening race at the Hockenheimring.

The quality of the field

Antonio Felix da Costa, BMW M4 DTM, 2014The DTM field is an appealing mix of talented juniors drivers and competitors who have already made their mark in other championships.

Among the up-and-coming drivers are Red Bull’s hotly tipped Antonio Felix da Costa, 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 champion Robert Wickens, 2012 European F3 champion Daniel Juncadella and his predecessor of two years earlier, Edoardo Mortara.

Their rivals include a trio of ex-F1 racers, with Paul di Resta returning to the series he won in 2010, Timo Glock beginning his second year in the category following his breakthrough win in last year’s season finale, and Vitaly Petrov making his DTM debut.

Expect series veterans Bruno Spengler and Gary Paffet to feature in the battle for championship honours, along with last year’s runner-up Augusto Farfus and the ever improving Wickens and Christian Vietoris.

The closeness of the field is another major part of DTM’s appeal. Pole position is often decided by mere thousandths of a second. Drivers can go from hero to zero in a short space of time, as demonstrated by Wickens’ failure to get out of Q1 at Oschersleben immediately after his win at the Nurburgring.

Even past champions Timo Scheider and Martin Tomczyk struggled in last last year’s championship, showing just how competitive this melting pot of motorsport stars is.

Rejuvenated races

Miguel Molina, Audi RS5 DTM, 2014A fair criticism levelled at the DTM in recent seasons is that its abundance of quality drivers and teams has too often failed to produce good racing. Similarly to the correlation seen in F1 in past decades, chassis bristling with aerodynamic appendages may look impressive but they tend not to create exciting wheel-to-wheel racing.

The DTM’s answer to that has been borrow from the F1 book of gimmicks. These include DRS-enabled rear wings, which fold back when an attacking driver is within two seconds of the another car ahead. Unlike in F1, these can be used at any point on a track, giving a more strategic dimension to the competition.

F1 fans will also be familiar with the DTM’s introduction of different tyre compounds which drivers have to use during each race: the ‘standard’ and slightly faster ‘option’ tyres. Couple this with DTM’s preference for shorter tracks (for instance the 1.4 mile Norisring), results in closely-packed racing.

In an attempt to prevent one manufacturer from holding the upper hand for too long, 2014 will see the controversial introduction of success ballast. This is designed not to penalise successful drivers, but to level out performance between cars.

The winning driver, as well as any drivers from the same manufacturer who finished inside the top ten, will have to carry an extra five kilograms at the next race. Drivers in the same cars which finished outside the top ten will have 2.5kg added.

For a series not famed for its on-track action, qualifying diminished in its importance in 2013, with just three of the eleven races won from pole position. In the season opener at Hockenheim Dirk Werner reached the second step on the podium from last on the grid.

Formula One DNA

Vitaly Petrov, Mercedes C-Coupe AMG DTM, 2014Despite the outward differences between the cars the similarities between F1 and the DTM run deep. Particularly the strategic nature of the racing, where a pit stop ‘undercut’ is often the easiest way of gaining track position rather than than overtaking on-track. Rockenfeller used this to good effect at the Nurburgring where he finished fourth in spite of a first corner incident that dropped him to the back of the field.

In a bid to introduce more freedom in this area, the DTM has reduced the number of mandatory pit stops from two to one this year, while maintaining the requirement to use both ‘standard’ and ‘option’ tyres. Drivers may also not used the softer tyres for more than half of the race. As degradation tends not to be a factor with Hankook’s rubber, expect just a single stop for each car at most races.

In 2014 the DTM will adopt a three-part qualifying system nearly identical to that of F1. The “pole shootout” format is now a thing of the past.

Given the quality of the drivers, qualifying in DTM will continue to be a spectacle in 2014, where the driving perfection of a lap needed to poach the higher placings is higher than almost any series, and the difference between advancement and elimination is often little more than thousandths of a second.

Also, impressively for a touring car series, the DTM regularly manages sub-three seconds pit stops for changing all four tyres following its move to mirror the 2010 ban on refuelling in F1. Couple that to segmented qualifying, brilliant drivers, professional teams and strategic racing, and it’s clear the DTM shares more with F1 than more conventional touring car series like the BTCC and WTCC.

Accessible racing

Martin Tomcyk, BMW M4 DTM, 2014One of the most appealing aspects of the DTM is the lengths the organisers have gone to encourage people to watch. Live streaming via YouTube gives viewers worldwide the choice to watch on a wide selection of devices.

Race and qualifying sessions can also be viewed on demand through the DTM channel, with the entirety of the 2013 season still available to watch.

The coverage itself is also excellent, with quality graphics and reliably good direction. A new commentary team will be in place this year.

In qualifying the unfolding laps are not simply shown versus the fastest lap, but the sectors are displayed as purple (fastest of all), green (personal best) or white (not an improvement), and in the race the highly strategic nature of the races is simply displayed in graphics on the left-hand side, where the number of stops and the tyre compound in use are displayed.

This transforms the viewing experience, making highly strategic racing easy to understand, and is one of a number of areas where F1 can learn from DTM.

DTM cars and drivers of 2014

Here are some of the cars and drivers of the 2014 DTM championship:

Expanding beyond Germany

Date Circuit Country
14th May Hockenheimring Germany
18th May Oschersleben Germany
1st June Hungaroring Hungary
29th June Norisring Germany
13th July Moscow Raceway Russia
3rd August Red Bull Ring Austria
17th August Nurburgring Germany
14th September Lausitzring Germany
28th September Guangzhou China
19th October Hockenheimring Germany

Germany’s premier touring car championship famously became a victim of its own success in the mid-nineties when unrestrained spending and a hasty expansion beyond the championship’s homeland saw the championship collapse.

Today’s series has grown more cautiously, but even so four of this year’s ten races will take place outside Germany. Here’s where and when you can catch the DTM in 2014.

Will you be following this year’s DTM championship? What appeals to you about this series? Have your say in the comments.

What motorsport would you recommend other F1 fans to follow? If you want to put the case for your favourite non-F1 category write a guest article and send it in. More information here: Write a guest article for F1 Fanatic

Why you should watch…

Images © BMW ag, Audi, Daimler/Hoch Zwei

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61 comments on Why You Should Watch… DTM

  1. wsrgo (@wsrgo) said on 28th April 2014, 11:49

    Wow, nice read, @willliam-brierty !!!!

  2. BasCB (@bascb) said on 28th April 2014, 12:13

    Thanks for the write up, maybe its getting time to pick up DTM more regularly again after watching a solid amount of it in the ’90s

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 28th April 2014, 15:40

      @basb – After Hakkinen left I gave up on it several seasons, and looking at some of the races online (dull), I was probably right to. But having prolifically watched and attended DTM races since BMW’s return in 2012, I can reliably inform you that the series has come along way. And with di Resta’s direct promotion from DTM in 2010 as well as Da Costa standing a good chance of promotion this year, the DTM’s position in international motorsport is secured.

  3. FlyingLobster27 said on 28th April 2014, 12:23

    About expansion, it’s not just the races outside Germany: the DTM is also exporting its technical regulations to other series. This year, the Japanese GT500s are run to DTM rules, with two differences: -the engines are hybrid turbocharged straight-fours, -there is a tyre war. The goal is to get more constructors entering either series. There is also talk of a US series run to DTM rules in the years to come, but I think that’s a long, long way off.

    • London (@london) said on 28th June 2014, 2:47

      Hopefully they don’t try and start a whole other DTM in the states, the racing world is already too oversaturated. If anything they should just add a US race to the calendar (COTA, Watkins Glen, Laguna Seca, etc).

  4. OlPeculier said on 28th April 2014, 12:35

    Live streaming via YouTube – somebody pass that to FOM please…

  5. Albert Tarra (@albert-tarra) said on 28th April 2014, 12:46

    Before the Super GT DTM-unification in 2010. I believe the Super GT fastest car vs DTM.
    500hp, 700nm torque and a massive aero modifications including a twin-turbo engine.
    But it’s different now …………..
    DTM is different, and a lot of collaboration f1 tech…………

  6. mrjlr93 (@mrjlr93) said on 28th April 2014, 12:54

    i think the V8 supercars is a much more competitive series than DTM 5 different manufactures and with 28 cars within a second of each other over qualifying it makes for many entertaining races

    • oliveiraz33 (@oliveiraz33) said on 28th April 2014, 14:42

      V8 supercars is simply the best racing out there, very competitive, and more overtakes than even motogp. V8 supercars makes things like DTM and WTCC unwatchable… Every racing fan should watch V8 supercars, and every category should be like that.

      Real racing, real drivers, cars sideways, crashes, great sounds (especialy the flat plane crank Mercs), and lot of flames from the exhaust, and 300kph! And they look much faster than any other touring cars.

      • JCost (@jcost) said on 28th April 2014, 22:04

        I have a lot of fun watching Stockcar Brasil and it is a bit similar to V8 supercars, however, I’d pick DTM over both.

        WTCC in meh…

      • London (@london) said on 28th June 2014, 2:53

        Ya it’s just too bad V8SC races are no longer aired in the US b/c Fox Sports gave that series the axe when they rebranded it from Speed. What’s even worse is that the geniuses at V8SC try and charge you to watch the races online when you go to their website.. Seriously? You guys are trying to charge fans to watch your series online? You’re lucky that people are even trying to watch it in the first place.. They need to take a lesson from TUSC and DTM and post the races on Youtube so that fans all across the globe can enjoy that awesome series. Instead they’re doing the complete opposite.

    • +1 for V8 Supercars (great that it seems like BTSport has picked it up).

      I gave up on DTM a long time ago. It should be great but every time i watch it i’m bored off my face within 15 mins. The racing is so boring yet it’s fantastic to look at and listen to, with a great pool of drivers to boot. I might tune in on Youtube for the first race to give my support because that is a fantastic idea and should be applauded. However, i don’t expect to be entertained much.

      • GB (@bgp001ruled) said on 28th April 2014, 23:23

        @racectrl, how can it be boring and fantastic to look at at the same time? is it because the cars are good looking (liveries and aero-parts)?

        • Cars look superb, sound great, and are impressively quick but the racing is predictable with very little overtaking. What can i say, it puts me to sleep. As I said – I’ll watch the first race to see how the racing is because that’s what I care most about it.

    • Julien (@jlracing) said on 30th April 2014, 17:21

      Since I have Motors TV for a few months, I’ve watched some V8 Supercar races.
      I have to say I absolutely love this series. Real close racing, flat out all the time!
      The cars look incredibly fast on those small, bumpy circuits and drivers are allowed to take
      risky moves. Just incredible entertainment and really good racing.
      Has to be the best touring car series there is.

  7. matt90 (@matt90) said on 28th April 2014, 12:58

    This year’s Merc looks lovely in profile. Simple but fluid.

  8. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 28th April 2014, 13:20

    Don’t like the look of the cars. Somehow DTM is harder to watch than BTCC for me, dunno why. Maybe it’s all the pitstops and stuff, don’t like that on touring car racing.

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 28th April 2014, 17:03

      @fer-no65 – I, and many others ( ^ @matt90 included ^ ) love the pumped, aggressive looks, although aerodynamic appendages and LEDS aren’t for everyone. As for the racing, it tends to help not to think of it as a touring car series, because as I mention it bears greater resemblance to F1 than it does to BTCC. Think of it as a series with GT style cars and single seater style racing…

  9. ajokay (@ajokay) said on 28th April 2014, 13:30

    I’m afraid I can’t agree. Japanese Super GT, which runs to very similar and ever-converging regulations, and adds the GT300 (FIA GT3) class alongside and provides much better racing throughout than I’ve ever seen in any DTM race. I visited Brands Hatch for the DTM a couple of years back and it was the worst race of the day. A procession of cars, 2 seconds apart, unable to overtake. The F3, the Lotus Cup, and the Euro NASCARs were all far more entertaining.

  10. zomtec (@zomtec) said on 28th April 2014, 13:51

    I watched a WTCC race once at Valencia with close racing and also contact between the cars. Despite racing on a narrow and slow track it was fun to watch just because the cars could handle some tackling. DTM cars are so overengineerd that you loose a lot of performance if a fly impacts and damages one of the little extra wings. Due to this high standard of development the cars are super expensive and only the 3 premium manufacturers are willing to pay the price for their product display.
    I would be have if these cars would come back closer to serial cars again like in the early 90’s with V6 engines instead of V8, steel/alloy bodywork instead of carbonmonocoques and basic aerodynamics to aid more manufacturers joining the show and to improve wheel-to-wheel action.

  11. Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 28th April 2014, 14:42

    After reading first few paragraphs of this article, I really thought I’ll watch this weekend’s race. But after “gimmics” paragraph, I decided not to. I see enough gimmics in F1, and I thought DTM can offer something more of “pure racing”, but DRS and wight ballast, especially in touring car series, is just too much for me.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like current F1, but not as much as 10 years ago, when F1 was uncompromising top racing series: when drivers would push whole race, when engines were amazing V10s, when it had that real “wow” factor (“wow” factor made me start watching F1 in 1999, when I was 9 years old). Of course, F1 is still pinnacle of motorsports, cars are still very fast, but does not have that whole package of “awsomeness”.

    • Dave (@raceprouk) said on 28th April 2014, 15:11

      5kg is almost nothing. BTCC has success ballast up to 45kg, and there it helps keep the racing close.

    • Keith Campbell (@keithedin) said on 28th April 2014, 15:18

      I’ve never followed other racing series but i think i will give this a go, given that it’s free to view.

      Dumb question regarding ballast, i presume it is only for the winner of the previous race (and others of the same car as described in the article) who takes the penalty, rather than a cumulative ballast penalty? i.e I’m assuming if you win two races you won’t carry 10kg for the following race, then 15kg if you win again etc.

      • Keith Campbell (@keithedin) said on 28th April 2014, 15:32

        also, is there any chance of teams ‘gaming’ the ballast system? Say they are running with only one car in the points in 10th place, would they be better to drop back and finish 11th so all their cars run lighter the next race?

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 28th April 2014, 17:10

      @osvaldas31 – Trust me, the “gimmicks” have little effect. The DRS saw very little in the of “push-to-pass” racing last year in that overtaking still required a lot of skill to execute, and as @raceprouk says, a mere 5kg will have little effect and may prove an elegant solution in keeping the racing close whilst not penalizing the best drivers. If anything, watch DTM to appreciate the fact that outside of F1, and the top-flights of single seater and sportscar racing, there are other equally professional and prodigiously talented racing drivers.

  12. Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 28th April 2014, 14:43

    Maybe somebody knows about engines, used in DTM? What power figures, is there some kind of hybrid technology?

  13. montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 28th April 2014, 15:10

    Thank you @william-brierty for this nice article

    I’ve been trying to watch the DTM every year since my favorite driver Alesi finished competing there after 2006. Didn’t like the racing there even prior to that, but had to watch because of Alesi. From 2007 every year I try to watch and then abandon it after a race or two since it’s just too boring. Hopefully this year will be different but I’m not holding my breath

    I’ve been saying repeatedly that the only touring series worth watching that I know of are the V8 Aus and BTCC. Can’t watch any of them on TV. I can watch the DTM and the “W”TCC(not a typo), but usually I’ve got much better things to do

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 28th April 2014, 17:26

      @montreal95 – I followed DTM whilst Hakkinen was there, but then, like you, lost interest when he left. When BMW returned in 2012, and when the series opted for these BEAUTIFUL aerodynamically honed coupes I became hooked once more, and since then the racing has improved ten-fold. Genuinely, I probably enjoyed the 2013 DTM season more than I did the 2013 F1 season.

      • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 28th April 2014, 20:01

        @william-brierty Well I cannot really judge the 2013 season since I’d only watched 2 races, but I didn’t like them much. They’d reminded me of the early-2000’s F1: the finishing order is quite different to the starting order but most changes happened not through on-track action.

        I hope they were the worst of the season though. And I like the look of the cars, same as you. So again, I really hope you’re right and DTM is good this year

  14. sketchyterry (@sketchyterry) said on 28th April 2014, 15:40

    Great read, will definitely be looking to watch this series as I want to watch more motorsport this year and expand beyond F1.

    FYI the first race isn’t on 14th May but this weekend 3rd/4th of May.

  15. TMF (@tmf42) said on 28th April 2014, 18:38

    Great read – I’ve been looking for something else since they put WEC behind a paywall. Now I definitely give DTM another chance.

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