For Audi’s DTM team, these days are particularly intensive ones. Fine-tuning of the new Audi RS 5 DTM’s aerodynamics and technology can continue until next Tuesday. On March 1, the final design has to be submitted to the motorsport authority, after which no modifications are possible anymore.
Many things in the 2017 DTM will be new: more engine power, less downforce, a more efficient Drag Reduction System (DRS) and softer tires, which may no longer be pre-heated either. All this is intended to make the DTM races even more thrilling and varied for the spectators.
“The tests at Portimão have confirmed that we’re heading in the right direction,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass, who was on site to get a personal impression of the current state. “The cars have a throatier sound and are faster. I feel that’s even visible on track. The biggest step, however, are the softer tires. Depending on how they’re used, the differences in lap times can be considerable. There’ll be many different strategic options – which will make things very interesting. The driver will be playing a greater part than before as well.”
Accordingly, the impressions and data gathered for Audi by Mattias Ekström, Loïc Duval, René Rast and Jamie Green on the three test days at Portimão were highly important. The seasoned campaigners, Ekström (177 DTM races) and Green (139 starts), in winter performed the lion’s share of the test work for Audi for the 2017 season. For the two DTM newcomers, Duval and Rast, Portimão was about making optimum use of one of the few testing opportunities before the season opens at Hockenheim on May 6/7.
“This worked out well,” says Le Mans winner and World Endurance Champion Loïc Duval. “It was a productive day for me and we covered every aspect of our program: qualifying, race distance and even a start practice unit. For the first time, I was also able to work with my new engineer, Mathieu Le Nail. As we all know, the interaction between the driver and the engineer is very important in the DTM.”
Duval shared Wednesday’s test with René Rast, who was visibly impressed by the 2017-spec technology: “The car’s handling is completely different. That was tremendous fun. It’ll be interesting to see which manufacturer will be doing the best job this year.”
“The new tires are a lot softer and degrade quickly,” says Mattias Ekström, who drove on Tuesday. “We burned plenty of rubber. After just one day, things around the track were looking pretty wild. I’m already dying to see 18 cars on track together for the first time at Hockenheim – they’re going to leave a lot of rubber on it.”
Jamie Green was the driver on Thursday, the final test day with the interim car. “We again learned a lot during the test,” says the Briton. “Now I can hardly wait to drive the new car. It looks spectacular. And obviously we’re hoping for it to be fast too.”
Following the world premiere in Geneva, the new Audi RS 5 DTM will be doing its first public test laps at the Italian race track of Vallelunga near Rome from March 14 to 16. The final pre-season test will take place at Hockenheim from April 3 to 6.