In an interview, the Head of DTM explains the innovative features of the DTM format and Audi’s aims for the 2015 season.
Mr. Gass, behind the scenes a lot of time was spent on fine-tuning the new format for the DTM race weekends. Now the key parameters have been established. As Head of DTM at Audi Sport, are you happy with the result?
We manufacturers extensively discussed the new format with the marketer of the series, ITR, and with the German Motorsport Association (DMSB) for a long time. There were numerous constructive ideas and proposals. I think we came up with a good approach. The DTM fans can look forward to a thrilling season and to DTM weekends with high entertainment value. One thing happens right after the other and our teams have a lot of work to do especially after the first race on Saturday.
You’ll need to explain this to us …
We are driving two races per weekend this year – one on Saturday and one on Sunday. After the first race, there is not much time to prepare the cars for the next day – especially if there are any accidents during the race. This will be a great logistical challenge. We’ll have to make even better use of every minute.
The first race on the DTM weekends lasts 40 minutes without a pit stop and the second one for 60 minutes with a pit stop. What does that mean?
For one, the tires have to last for 40 minutes in the first race – that’s basically not a problem but may well pose a minor challenge on some of the race tracks. In addition, qualifying and grid positions are particularly important in the first race because without a pit stop the drivers can only overtake on track. That’s why they can activate the DRS, in other words the adjustable wing flap, three times per lap this year. This is intended to produce as many overtaking maneuvers as possible – of course during the second race on Sunday as well.
The qualifying format has been changed too: Q1, Q2, Q3 or even Q4 are DTM history …
The motto is: ‘Keep it simple.’ There’s only a 20-minute qualifying session now per race – the fastest driver is in front. With 24 cars now and such a short time, conflicts are preprogrammed. Going out on track at the right moment and not getting into traffic will be crucial. While in the past the drivers were able to get into their rhythm in Q1, everyone now has to immediately deliver their full performance. So the fans can look forward to very intensive 20 minutes during which almost all of the 24 cars will be out on track. I’m already curious to see if anyone will be bold enough to go out only once in order to save a set of tires for the race; actually, the grid position is too important for that. It’ll be thrilling for the fans
What does the increase from ten to 18 races mean?
That one or two races without points do not automatically mean that there’s no longer a chance of winning the championship. I’m assuming that we’re going to see more drivers in the battle for the title for a longer time in the future. I hope that we’re going to profit from that at Audi. After all, we have a particularly homogeneous driver squad that we clinched the manufacturer’s title with last year. We’re the only brand that doesn’t have a new driver in its line-up. I see that as an advantage for Audi.
In terms of technology, the Audi RS 5 DTM has remained the same due to the homologation. What did your engineers focus on in winter?
On even the minutest details. We took a close look at where there might have been some untapped potential in 2014. During the tests in winter, we worked out a new basic set-up for the 2015 season on which we’ve been receiving very positive feedback from all our drivers so far. But, obviously, our competitors were active as well. I’m assuming that the entire field will be similarly close as last year.
And what’s the aim for the 2015 season?
The same one as always at Audi Sport: we’re set on battling for the championship and reclaiming car number ‘1’ in the end. The DTM is very important for Audi. We’re pitted against BMW and Mercedes-Benz – our two main competitors in the premium class. And in the DTM you can immediately recognize the sporty base models such as our RS 5 on the race track. The results in the DTM have a direct impact on the product.”