Even before the start of the 2019 DTM season, Mike Rockenfeller is making headlines off the race track: The Audi works driver has stopped his social media activities.
“You probably know that I’m not a big fan of social media and I’ve never posted about my private life,” “Rocky” wrote to his Facebook fans. “For this reason I’ve decided to discontinue my social media activities. It’s just not my thing. I’m looking forward to meeting you at the races or at other events.”
Thanks to the many positive responses from his fans, the 2013 DTM champion feels validated in his decision. “I could never get used to the whole concept and it’s better to leave it altogether than do something half-hearted. It’s simply more genuine.”
Just as genuine is his excitement for the upcoming DTM season. “I love the new turbo engine and I’m certain the fans will love it too,” he enthuses. “The sound is terrific, the car is much faster and more spectacular. With Aston Martin joining the series, there’ll be some new faces and new colors around. I’m looking forward to this new DTM era and some thrilling races.”
Rockenfeller tackles his eighth season for Audi Sport Team Phoenix, with whom he won the DTM title in 2013, but since then has experienced a journey of mixed fortunes. Since 2017, his form has been on the rise, in spite of a minor setback in 2018 as a result of a generally difficult season for Audi. “Over winter we tried to make a lot of changes to the structure and approach,” explains “Rocky”. “I’m very optimistic that this will be a good year for me.”
Since no stone was left unturned, Rockenfeller even considered changing to a new permanent starting number: “It hasn’t really been working for me ever since I’ve raced with the number 99. But I’m not superstitious so I’ll stick with 99. It’s other things that need to change.”
In his first year with the Audi Sport Team Phoenix squad, he was the best Audi driver and in 2013 he clinched the championship title in the Schaeffler Audi RS 5 DTM. “That was a very emotional experience, not least because I’d been working towards this moment for such a long time,” “Rocky” recalls.
Securing third overall in 2014, he was again the best Audi driver. After that, things went downhill. The tire generation at that time was not a good fit for his tire-saving driving style and things were not running smoothly within the Eifel-based team either. Hence, at the end of 2016, the German was faced with the key question of either doing something different after ten years in the DTM or starting over.
“Rocky” opted for a fresh start in the DTM – together with Ernst Moser’s team in which he had his most successful DTM years. “I was optimistic that we’d be able to make it back to the top,” he says. “The team and I had to dig ourselves out of that hole together. We had to change a few things in order to come back strong.”
When the softer, unheated Hankook tires were introduced in 2017, Rockenfeller immediately found his stride. Joining forces with his new race engineer, Laurent Fedacou, worked well and other changes in the DTM helped him too. In 2019 he will make a renewed attempt to score his second DTM title.
Rockenfeller began competing for Audi in the touring car series in 2007. The first years at the wheel of a previous-generation car were tough. “Rocky” drew his motivation primarily from the sports car races he contested parallel to the DTM. In 2010, in the Audi R15 TDI, he clinched overall victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a year later, he had the most serious accident in his career to date in the iconic French endurance race – just as he was gaining a foothold in the DTM and winning his first DTM race. Forced to skip two races following his accident at Le Mans, he had to bury his hopes for the title.
His parents, his wife Susanne, and their two sons Phil and Paul, give “Rocky” strength. On the Swiss side of Lake Constance, the Rockenfellers built a house in 2013, his championship-winning year, which includes a private gym where “Rocky” stays fit. An activity he likes even better is riding his road bike which he frequently does together with former cycling pro Andreas Klöden.
Privately, Rockenfeller drives an Audi SQ7 TDI. “I used to have an RS 6, but the SQ7 is simply perfect for family and sports,” he says. Aside from his family and motorsport, Mike Rockenfeller has a soft spot for old cars – not an unusual interest for someone who was trained as a master automotive mechanic. The latest addition to his collection is an Audi R15 TDI. “Okay, it’s not my Le Mans-winning car, but it’s still a racing car that I have great memories of,” says “Rocky”. “The R15 also had a turbo engine.”