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. Sergei Martyn said on 28th April 2014, 18:38

    Me and my son visited DTM racing August 4th last year at Moscow Raceway and the experience was breathtaking. We walked through the pitlane watching teams practicing pitstops, then we were able not only to take autographs from ALL the racers but to chat with the most of them including the top guns, later thanks to effort of my son we won the visit to the Audi garage where we could sit in the last year race car and learned a lot of interesting things about the machinery and team work, some luckier folks won few laps ride in current and past race cars. The race itself was much closer than most of latest F1 races and the screaming blast from the full grid of the fire spitting 4 liter V8 valkiries was the music which ruined my hearing for a couple of days but who cares? That was a pure joy of racing, sparks flying, engine sound volumes blasting all the unimaginable limits, cars were so beautiful (especially comparing to the current breed of F1), the experience was unbelievable and I still can’t wait for the race this summer.
    I have read somewhere that people who visit F1 races today can hear the tyres screech at corners – in DTM even if it is a single car and you’re sitting at the end of straight at the top of the grandstands you hear it’s banshee howl from the other end of the straight, then you feel you body and the grandstands vibrate and then the beautiful and mean machine blasts past you at the unimaginable speed spitting fire and popping when the gears are changed at the corner.
    And yes, folks I heard the tyres screech that weekend – but only WHEN some road car cup as held as the support race before DTM…
    God bless DTM! Merciless German engineering, beautiful cars, sparks, wheel and bodywork bangs, deafening sound of 4L V8 orchestra, real racing at it’s best.

  2. HiPn0tIc (@hipn0tic) said on 28th April 2014, 22:52

    I wanted António Felix da Costa in the F1, as it can’t be done, i honnestly think he did a good move, DTM is a great championship, and can be a good set up for higher flights. If i think he’ll ever “return” to F1, as hard as it cost me no…

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 29th April 2014, 8:33

      @hipn0tic – I think we will see da Costa in F1. The people at Red Bull know Sainz has zero competition in FR3.5 this year, and by comparison da Costa had Magnussen and Vandoorne as well as an under-performing Arden car to contend with. If da Costa does well in what is a ferociously competitive series, I think he stands an excellent chance of Vergne’s seat. Could DTM not be a litmus test of Antonio’s talents?

      • HiPn0tIc (@hipn0tic) said on 29th April 2014, 11:31

        @william-brierty I really hope you’re right because fo me and for my country was a dream, because it could be the most tallented driver we had.
        Last year he didn’t achieve and delivered, and that’s one of the reasons he didn’t got in.
        My guess is that is difficult, if he deliveres this year take him out of the DTM, it’s kind when you got in a “friend zone” with a girl you know? They know you’re there and they want risk it, RBR could do that too…what do you think guys?

  3. GB (@bgp001ruled) said on 28th April 2014, 23:36

    i’ve watch brief moments of dtm before and never got my attention. but i must say: the article sells the series pretty well! it really motivates me to want to watch. but one thing in common almost all commets have is that it is boring! exactly what i remember that series to be!
    is there out there any series that is the utopic F1 every fan wishes for? no gimmicks, a level field, lots of overtaking, minimal gaps between the best and worst teams, etc., etc…
    it seems like it would have to be GP2 or WSR35…

  4. Mark in Florida said on 28th April 2014, 23:44

    I used to watch the DTM series on the old Speed Channel but it was taken over by another network and it became NASCAR 24/7. It drove me a little crazy for a while I hated it so much. I’ll start watching it on the YouTube channel now. Great article on the new style of racing in DTM not to sure about the drs, but the weight penalties make perfect sense.

  5. Alex said on 29th April 2014, 9:34

    I never saw dtm or almost never, because i dont know on what schedule are races (saturday? sunday?) no idea, i dont have idea also in which tvs they show, at least in my country nop…

  6. Great article @william-brierty! I enjoy very much DTM. Love the cars, the races, great pilots, the spirit, the organization, and ofc…the engine’s noise :)

    This year, for my rejoice, I ‘ll have the opportunity to watch Felix da Costa (great portuguese driver!) in a top level. Perhaps he’ll find the way to the F1. So I hope.

  7. james2488 (@james2488) said on 29th April 2014, 22:53

    BTCC is a better racing series, you only have to watch race 3 at Donington last weekend to see that, an overtake for the lead on the last corner! you don’t get that in DTM or F1, it may not have the technological advantage they have but the cars are loud and the racing is the best I have seen in years, plus there 7 BTCC champions in the field this year and 32 cars per race and no DRS !!!!

  8. London (@london) said on 28th June 2014, 2:42

    Great article. The thing that sucks is that DTM is no longer uploading full races to their Youtube channel anymore. However, you can still probably find the races on there b/c various individuals upload them on their own channels. The series is now being aired on CBS Sports Network in the US. Pretty cool that it’s finally getting TV coverage in the states, but DTM should still do themselves and their fans a huge favor and post those races online.

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