The youngest was the fastest. 19-year-old German Marius Zug got his maiden DTM season with the Attempto Racing Audi R8 underway with the fastest time (1m 38.344s) on the first official test day at Hockenheim. On his comeback, three-time DTM champion René Rast (GER/1m 38.682s) ended up third-fastest with the Team ABT Audi followed by Austrian Lucas Auer (1m 39.082s/Team WINWARD) with the fastest Mercedes-AMG. With 113 laps, BMW driver Esteban Muth (BEL/Walkenhorst Motorsport) was the busiest driver of the day. The official DTM test will continue on Wednesday.
Low temperatures and a primarily damp race track were the reason that testing conditions were of limited significance. Nevertheless, the record field with 29 GT race cars and drivers from 15 nations used the opportunity to collect relevant insights in all conditions in preparation for the season with 16 sprint races. The first two races will be held at Portimão in Portugal from 29 April until 1 May.
“With 29 race cars, we have the largest field since the new start of the DTM in 2000 and with 15 nations, the field for the 36th season is more international than ever before in DTM history,” Frederic Elsner, director event & operations of the DTM organisation ITR underlined. Not just because of the record field, the ITR team with Gerhard Berger at the helm had reason to be happy on the opening day of testing. For instance, series’ partner Autohero not only extended it contract but expanded it as well. From the move within the broadcasting family, from SAT.1 to ProSieben, the ran racing team is hoping to increase its audience. With former DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller, the station also presented a new, high-quality TV expert.
Scot Elkins, the new race director, was also excited. “29 race cars, that is fantastic. But monitoring so many cars is also a challenge,” the American is well aware of his difficult task. “I am really excited, because the level of professionalism among the drivers and teams is impressive, and I have been working in many race series already.” Both Frederic Elsner and Lutz Leif Linden, secretary-general of the Automobilclub von Deutschland (AvD) and the new president of the GT commission of the global motoring federation FIA, are convinced that the experienced Scot Elkins, who also remains in charge as race director of the FIA Formula E world championship, is a valuable asset to the high-class DTM. AvD remains the sporting organiser on the DTM platform.
“Just look at all these guys! Competition will be tougher than ever before,” Austrian Lucas Auer is convinced. In the Mercedes-AMG Team WINWARD, he has defending champion Maximilian Götz (GER) as his first opponent. “DTM is a great championship and I am delighted to finally be part of it,” Porsche works driver Laurens Vanthoor (BEL/SSR Performance) commented the DTM entry by the brand from Zuffenhausen. For DTM legend Kurt Thiim (DEN) and his son Nicki, the test day was a particular joy with the DTM debut of the two-time FIA WEC world champion. The son of an ex-champion racing in DTM is a first. “That was our common dream that is now coming true, very emotional. But now, the goal is to work hard and to be fully concentrated,” Nicki Thiim (Lamborghini/T3 Motorsport) said.
“To be honest, I am rather feeling like a rookie,” three-time DTM champion René Rast (Audi/Team ABT) discovered, making his comeback after a one-year absence. “The cars, the rules: so many things are new to me. And in the field, there are over 20 drivers who are capable of winning and are candidates for the title.” With support from his fellow Brazilian, ex-Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa, Felipe Fraga is taking on his maiden DTM season with the Red Bull AlphaTauri AF Corse Ferrari 488. “We speak regularly and I am getting the occasional advice from him,” Fraga commented. “DTM is a huge chance for me. I have been following this great championship for years already.”
Not just in the paddock, the DTM debut by nine-time rally world champion Sébastien Loeb is a major conversation topic. “People talk to me about Sébastien Loeb everywhere, especially where I come from”, teammate Felipe Fraga reported. “He is so incredibly famous, a great guy and I am proud to be allowed to race in one team with him.” Red Bull AlphaTauri AF Corse team principal Ron Reichert is also excited about his initial experience with the Frenchman: “He jumps into the car and is there right away. He has an incredible feeling for things, his feedback to the engineers is excellent.” Another returnee in the DTM paddock is ex-champion Manuel Reuter as sporting director of the Grasser Racing Team: “It is a really good feeling, like coming back into the family,” the two-time Le Mans winner said, looking ahead to the 2022 DTM with anticipation: “The field is as good as it gets, the highest quality. For some of the top drivers, scoring points on a regular basis will be difficult. The fans can definitely look forward to a mega season.”