For Mike Rockenfeller, 2016 is a special season. It’s “Rocky’s” tenth year with Audi – as well as his tenth in the DTM.
Mike Rockenfeller has a kind of hate-love relationship with the DTM. “I have fun in the DTM particularly when I’m in contention at the front,” he candidly admits. “That’s why I didn’t have quite as much fun last season. I’m hoping for us to have a good year again in 2016.”
His so far best year in the DTM was 2013 when 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 for this moment for such a long time.”
Since 2006, Mike Rockenfeller has been competing in the internationally popular touring car series. The initial years at the wheel of a previous-generation car were rough. Rocky largely motivated himself in sports car races, which he contested alongside the DTM. In 2010, in the Audi R15 TDI, he achieved overall victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours. A year later, he had the most serious accident in his career to date in the iconic French endurance race.
LMP1 sports cars such as the current Audi R18 still fascinate Mike Rockenfeller. However, as DTM Champion he had to make a choice at the end of 2013: defend the title in the DTM or switch to the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC)? Rocky chose the DTM, which is hard to imagine anymore without his yellow-green Schaeffler Audi RS 5 DTM.
With Timo Scheider he forms the only DTM squad that puts two champions on the grid as teammates. Following two joint years in Audi Sport Team Phoenix, the two Audi drivers have since become personal friends and in 2016 are tackling the 24-hour race at the Nürburgrig together in the new Audi R8 LMS as well.
In addition, Rocky was released by Audi Sport to contest the 24-hour race at Daytona and the 12-hour race in Sebring at the beginning of the year. “I’ve always been fond of U.S. racing,” he says. “The two races in Florida have given me a tremendous amount of motivation. Now, I’m very much looking forward to the DTM.”
The squad headed by Ernst Moser repositioned itself in winter. “We learned a lot from the mistakes me made last year, talked a lot, and changed a lot,” says Mike Rockenfeller. “Qualifying has become the all-important challenge – and our set-up just wasn’t right for it. We’ve since seen what the crucial aspects are, and are going to try to put this on track. The car is well-engineered, so I feel positive. In 2016, I’m determined to be at the front of the field from the very beginning and, obviously, my aim is to be in contention for the championship.”
In Arnau Niubo Mike Rockenfeller has a new race engineer supporting him in 2016. He knows him well from development tests with the Audi RS 5 DTM. His car number, “99,” has remained the same. “9 is my lucky number – so I thought two of them are better than one ...”
The commitments in Florida helped Rocky prepare for the 2016 DTM as well. “Together with Marcel Fässler, I covered 700 kilometers on a bicycle there. That’s a solid base. I’m in good spirits and trying to start the season physically as well as mentally fresh.”
His family life gives him the necessary energy, too. Since summer 2014, the Rockenfellers have been living in their home on the Swiss side of Lake Constance as a threesome. “Having children is cool,” says Rocky. “It’s a totally different feeling to come home now. Anyone who has children knows that. I look forward to seeing my own small family again every time I’ve been away.”
For the family’s sake, Mike Rockenfeller traded his Audi RS 6 Avant for an Audi Q7 after two years. “For traveling with the family, the Q7 is the ultimate car. Obviously, an RS Q7 would be awesome. For the new SQ7, I even shot a film. I think it’s great that Audi Sport has become a brand in its own right. For me, this means things have come full circle. It shows Audi’s intentions and the importance that motorsport, sporty models and sportiness have for the company. Making Audi Sport a brand is an important strategic move.”