In an attempt to improve the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, series‘ governing body is under restructuration and appointed Gerhard Berger as its new boss.
Former Formula 1 driver and team co-owner Berger will replace Hans Werner Aufrecht, who led ITR for over 30 years. The Austrian will return to the managerial role for the first time since he left the FIA single-seater commission at the end of 2014.
Commenting on his new role, Berger said: “I started my motor-racing career in touring car racing and always followed DTM with a lot of interest. DTM is a top-class product with independent, powerful regulations, with strong manufacturers, top sponsors, important international partnerships and many fans.
This is a good starting point with great potential for the future. The first task I will focus on in the coming weeks is gaining a deeper insight into the details with the support of my colleagues. We will then use this strong basis for creating a joint strategy for the future. While doing so, I consider the further development of our international partnerships – also with regards to new manufacturers –, spectacular racing cars that also command the drivers’ respect as well as a format combining both sport and entertainment as particularly important”.
Although Berger himself ran in only one DTM race (8th place in Zolder 1985), he is connected to the series through his nephew Lucas Auer who will spend his third season as a Mercedes-AMG driver this year.
All three manufacturers of the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters came to Vallelunga for a three-day test. It was the first time the cars were present in the fully homologated 2017 spec.
Audi Sport brought to Italy Mattias Ekström and Jamie Green. It was Ekström who gave the new RS 5 DTM first public laps and was very pleased with the experience:
“We tried out a lot of different things: short stints, long runs, qualifying simulations and many different set-up variants. The new DTM cars are definitely more demanding in terms of driving skills. Plus, finding a perfect set-up compromise for the softer tires and the changed aerodynamics is a great challenge. The season is going to be packed with excitement for sure!” Ekstrom commented.
Both Audi drivers covered 2121 kilometres between them.
Mercedes-AMG’s drivers Robert Wickens, Gary Paffett and Edoardo Mortara posted 518 laps between them, equating to 2116 km. The Stuttgart brand focused mainly on a better understanding of the new-for-2017 softer compound tyres from series’ supplier Hankook.
Head of the Mercedes-AMG’s programme Ulrich Fritz commented:
“The hard work has paid off so far with plenty of kilometres posted and data collected during two successful weeks of testing. Still, our work is far from over. We must now evaluate all the info, especially with regard to the new generation of tyres, and draw the right conclusions before final testing in Hockenheim.”
BMW Motorsport decided not to share much information about their participation in testing. The Bavarian brand brought to the track Maxime Martin and Tom Blomqvist, who are understood to have spent the three days understanding the behaviour of the new M4 DTM, which under the new rules was given more power and less downforce than its predecessor.
The last round of collective testing will take place in Hockenheim on 3-6 April. The same track will host the season opener on 6-7 May.
The FIA World Touring Car Championship announced the entry list for the upcoming 2017 season which features the lowest car count in the series’ history.
The 16-car field will be made of six works entries from Honda and Volvo and ten privateer entries, two of which are yet to confirm their full season commitment.
Honda’s factory outfit will enter cars for two familiar WTCC veterans Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz and for the WTCC rookie Ryō Michigami, a former Super GT champion.
Volvo retained only Thed Björk from last year’s line-up and added Nicky Catsburg and Néstor Girolami to the team.
After the works Citroën team left the scene, all four French cars will be run by privateer outfits. The one most likely to fight for the title is Münnich Motorsport, with Rob Huff as a star driver. The Sébastien Loeb’s team retained Tom Chilton and Mehdi Bennani and added John Filippi to the line-up.
Filippi’s old team Campos Racing made an unlikely return and signed an Argentinean star Esteban Guerrieri. However, the deal at this stage is only signed for half of the season’s ten rounds. The other Chevrolet RML will be driven by Tom Coronel, who remained in the ROAL Motorsport team.
Hungarian outfit Zengő Motorsport will field two Hondas once again. Young Dániel Nagy is the team’s protégé, while Oliver Panis’ son Aurélien will for sure bring some attention. The only new-to-WTCC team on the grid is RC Motorsport, which will field two ex-factory LADA Vestas. The squad will be led by Yvan Muller’s nephew Yann Ehrlacher, while the second driver is yet to be announced.
There are less than four weeks left until the 2017 season kicks off in Marrakech.
All three Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters manufacturers were present in Algarve for the last collective testing before the cars have to be submitted to homologation on March 1.
Audi Sport brought their former champion Mattias Ekström to perform the initial shakedown, before handing the RS 5 DTM to Loïc Duval and René Rast, both new full-season drivers in the series and Jamie Green, who took the car for the final of three days.
Mercedes-AMG also had a mix of experienced drivers and new signings. The Stuttgart-based brand focused on completing as many laps as possible with Gary Paffett, Paul di Resta and Audi refugee Edoardo Mortara. The three drivers together crossed the finish line 438 times.
BMW Motorsport was the only manufacturer to have only two drivers with Augusto Farfus and reigning series champion Marco Wittmann sharing the driving duties. The München-based squad focussed on getting to know the new for 2017 tyres which are much softer, as an effect of a tyre warmers ban.
The sessions were not timed and it is understood that not all cars were in their full 2017 trims.
This will change for the next collective test, which will take place in Italian Vallelunga on March 14-17.
Audi is the last Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters manufacturer to announce their team structure for the 2017 season.
For the first time since 2011, the DTM field will consist of only 18 cars, which comes as a result of an agreement between competing brands to run six cars each, instead of eight. While BMW and Mercedes-AMG took the opportunity to reduce the number of their teams to two and one respectively, Audi decided to keep all its existing outfits in place.
That move was possible as Hans-Jürgen Abt’s Team Abt Sportsline, which used to run four cars, will scale down its programme to two cars, in order to keep in line with Team Phoenix and Team Rosberg.
Each full-time 2016 driver will remain with their existing teams. Therefore, Mattias Ekström and Nico Müller will form the Abt squad, while Jamie Green and Mike Rockenfeller will lead Rosberg and Phoenix respectively. As for rookie goes, Loïc Duval will join Team Phoenix while René Rast will switch to Team Rosberg for his first full-season ride.
Rast and Duval also announced their race numbers – the German decided not to retain the #72 he used for a few races last year and chose to race with #33 while the French opted for #77.
Four-time World Touring Car Champion Yvan Muller was seen at the Algarve circuit testing for the factory Volvo team. The Frenchman, however, denied rumors about his full-time return.
The most successful driver in WTCC history announced late last year that he will not continue racing full-time despite receiving drive offers. The news about Volvo test sheered doubts about this statement but Muller reassured his fans that he will not abandon his retirement plans and will not race full-time in WTCC.
“In order to put an end to all speculation, I announced at the end of last year that I had decided to stop my full-time driver career, which was a deliberate choice. That decision is still valid. I have absolutely no intention of repeating a full season as a driver, but I have always said that it is not impossible that I will be driving again occasionally when I feel like it. But today there is nothing planned. As for my professional future, it has been decided for a few months already, but the announcement will be made on time.” – can be read on Frenchman’s website.
It remains unknown why Muller was testing the Volvo and what, if any, role in the team will he have. Volvo denied comment on that matter but revealed that the 2017 line up will be announced in February.
The Swedish team will field three cars for the first time in its history.
After Robert Dahlgren’s retirement earlier this year, the most likely candidates are Thed Björk, Fredrik Ekblom, Nestor Girolami and Nick Catsburg.
Mercedes-AMG is the last of the three Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters manufacturers to announce driver line-ups for the 2017 season, which means that all 18 names are now known.
As each brand will enter six cars this year instead of eight, Mercedes-AMG had to lay off some drivers.
The Stuttgart marque decided to keep only half of last year’s squad. Christian Vietoris, Maximilian Götz and Daniel Juncadella will therefore no longer be part of the DTM effort.
The team decided to keep Garry Paffett, Lucas Auer, Robert Wickens and Paul di Resta. Paffett and di Resta are both former series champions whilst Auer and Wickens have six victories and seven pole positions between them. They will be joined by last year’s runner-up and long-time Audi driver Edoardo Mortara, who will be the only driver to switch brands during the off season, and Maro Engel. The German driver will return to DTM for the first time since 2011 and at the moment is the only Mercedes-AMG driver who is yet to stand on the podium.
In order to reduce costs, all six Mercedes-AMG’s cars will be run by Team HWA this year.
BMW was the first brand to announce its 2017 line-up consisted of current champion Marco Wittmann, Timo Glock, Augusto Farfus, Bruno Spengler, Tom Blomqvist and Maxime Martin, whilst Mattias Ekström, Nico Müller, Jamie Green, René Rast, Mike Rockenfeller and Loïc Duval will form the Audi team.
The 2017 DTM season will start in Hockenheim on 6-7 May.
Former Super GT Champion Ryō Michigami will join the works Honda World Touring Car Team for the 2017 season, replacing Rob Huff.
Huff, the 2012 WTCC champion, announced his departure last week, as he will return to the privateer Münnich Motorsport team to drive an ex-factory Citroën for the first time in his career.
Despite the fact many long-time WTCC drivers are yet to confirm their return, Honda decided to give their seat to Michigami, whose TC1 experience is limited to the one-off appearance at last year’s Race of Japan. It will be 43-year old’s first full-time ride since 2014.
Michigami will race in the #34 Honda Civic alongside Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz in cars #18 and #5. All three drivers will conduct a series of testing ahead of the first round in Marrakesh at the beginning of April.
Ryo Michigami: “As a Japanese driver, I’m extremely proud to be given the opportunity to represent a Japanese manufacturer in a world championship.
I’m aware that this season will be a huge challenge for me, but I will use all the experience I have gained during my career in Japan and I am incredibly motivated to perform strongly across the season. I want to make this the pinnacle of my life in motorsport and together with Honda, JAS Motorsport, Tiago and Norbi, I will make the maximum effort possible to achieve this. I would also like to thank everybody in advance for their help and support in 2017.”
LADA could still race in WTCC despite no factory backing.
Just two months ago the factory LADA squad announced that the Russian manufacturer will not return to the FIA World Touring Car Championship in 2017, even though driver contracts were already in place. The decision was devastating for the series and a secondary class had to be introduced in order to keep entries above the minimum 16. Thanks to the team boss Victor Shapovalov, we might see Vestas on the grid after all.
Shapovalov’s Russian Bears Racing team competed in WTCC as a privateer entry in 2008, before becoming a factory LADA squad the following year. This might happen again thanks to the agreement between him and the series promoter Eurosport Events, which is reported to be in place. Although LADA won three races in 2016 and established itself as a very competitive car, it is unlikely they will enjoy the same success this year, as without factory backing the team will probably not feature any front-running drivers.
Lada Sport Rosneft finished third in the 2016 WTCC championship behind the strong Honda and Citroen teams. they secured three wins across the season winning both races in Russia courtesy of Nick Catsburg and Gabriele Tarquini and then in Qatar it was Tarquni who took the top step of the podium in Race Two. Dutchman Catsburg managed to finish seventh in the drivers championship with Tarquini two places behind him.
The full 2017 grid for the 2017 WTCC Championship is yet to be confirmed but the news that Lada could be back on the grid can only be good for fans of WTCC.