Is the new Audi RS 5 DTM as fast as it looks?
We obviously hope so. The pre-season tests have been promising. We’ll only know where we stand, though, after the first race at Hockenheim. There’s much that’s new in the DTM – it’s definitely going to be exciting.
How do you personally like the new Audi RS 5 DTM?
Very much. I like the new RS design language by Marc Lichte and his team. The new Audi RS 5 DTM is our first DTM car we developed in parallel to the production model. I think it’s a very good-looking car. But you don’t score points or win championships just because a race car looks good – it has to be fast, reliable and competitive, and we’ve been working hard for this.
Will this year finally produce the DTM drivers’ title that Mike Rockenfeller most recently clinched for Audi in 2013?
With ten victories in each of the last two seasons, the Audi RS 5 DTM was the most successful car. In 2016, we won the teams’ and the manufacturers’ classifications. We’re proud of this because it shows that we had a fast car and did a good job. But of course we know that – just like in Formula 1 – the drivers’ title is the most prestigious one in the eyes of the fans. That’s why it’s clear that we’re aiming to clinch the drivers’ title.
There are many things that will be new in the DTM. You personally attended all the pre-season tests. How do you like the cars?
The pre-season tests confirmed that we’re heading in the right direction. The cars have a throatier sound and are faster. I think that you can see that on track too. The biggest step, though, are the softer tires. Depending on how you use them, the differences in lap times are considerable. There are many different strategic options – making the season a very exciting one. The driver is playing a greater role than before as well.
The pit stop format is new too – and both races on a weekend will now be equally long.
This makes the DTM more spectacular and, at the same time, easier to understand. The starting times of practically all races in 2017 are planned to be identical to the extent possible. The race format is identical as well: about one hour including a pit stop – that’s easy to remember for spectators and TV viewers. The pit stops themselves will be more interesting for the fans. They’ll last longer and be easier to watch by the audience. In addition, we’re becoming even more open to the fans, providing them with completely new opportunities to peek into the pits.
In the DTM this year, only 18 instead of the previous 14 cars will be on the grid. What are your views on this reduction?
It was necessary because we want to continue seeing all the cars in the field in contention for victory. Quality is more important to us than quantity. I understand that the fans would like to see as many cars and drivers as possible, but spectacular races are a far more significant aspect, so the question of whether 18 or 24 cars are on the grid is secondary. I’m confident that we’re going to see such races this season.
In Gerhard Berger the DTM has a new boss. How do you view his signing?
I’m very happy that the DTM managed to secure Gerhard Berger’s services. In him, we have a proven expert who knows the entire breadth of motorsport and is well-connected. I would like to thank Walter Mertes, Hans-Jürgen Abt, and particularly Hans Werner Aufrecht. He has made the DTM what it is today.
The stars of the DTM are the drivers. Is the Audi driver squad the strongest one in the DTM?
We obviously hope so. In Mattias (Ekström) and Mike (Rockenfeller), we have two DTM Champions on board who are among the favorites in my book, not least due to the new rules and tires. Jamie (Green) is no doubt one of the strongest campaigners in the DTM. Nico (Müller) convinced us last season with consistently good performances and his first DTM victory. René (Rast) not only with his strong performance in the finale at Hockenheim showed that he’ll be at the very front of the field in the DTM as well. And in Loïc (Duval), we have integrated one of our best drivers from the Le Mans program into the DTM squad. There’s no doubt in my mind: we’re in a top position with our driver lineup for the 2017 season and have six strong characters in our team.