An extraordinary season in DTM is imminent. Considerably more drivers than in the previous year, even more teams: DTM will be taking on the 16 sprint races with a large field. In a first DTM Media Talk, defending champion Maximilian Götz (GER), Lamborghini driver Mirko Bortolotti (ITA), Team ABT Sportsline newcomer Ricardo Feller (SUI), BMW works driver Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), DTM Trophy graduate Louis Henkefend (GER) and Timo Bernhard, team principal, Team75 Motorsport, spoke about their expectations for the upcoming season. In one aspect, they were unanimous: DTM is facing another extremely thrilling season.
“It will be a tough season,” the drivers are aware given the first-class field. “There are so many new and great names in the field, a great mix,” defending champion Maximilian Götz (GER) has noticed as well. “Being able to race with starting number 1 is a privilege and I want to enjoy every lap, but it will be really close.” The DTM drivers will get together for the first encounter during the first official DTM test at Hockenheim on 5 and 6 April. One day earlier, on 4 April, DTM Trophy will already be testing. The season starts at Portimão from 29 April until 1 May.
For the first time in the rich history of the long-standing series, Porsche will be joining the battle for the DTM title. “DTM is a very attractive platform,” team principal Timo Bernhard, who is running a Porsche with works driver Thomas Preining (AUT) in the media talk. “The last time Porsche raced was in the Deutsche Rennsport-Meisterschaft in the 1970s. Now, we are starting a new chapter in DTM and want to build on the achievements in DRM. For us as a team, it was time for the next level.” DTM also represents the next level for Ricardo Feller, who is stepping up into DTM as the German GT champion. “DTM has always been my goal and by winning the GT Masters title last year, I opened the door. Now, I hope that I can make a name for myself in DTM,” says Feller, who will be testing the ABT-Audi at Imola for the first time on Thursday. “Nico Müller is my hero and Rolf Ineichen has known me since I was born,” Feller is looking forward to the unofficial Swiss championship with three Swiss drivers racing in DTM for the first time as well as his strong teammates Kelvin van der Linde and René Rast.
Somebody eager to attack Götz in the new season is Mirko Bortolotti. By finishing second as a guest driver at Assen last year, the driver of the Grasser Racing Team already showed that he has to be taken into account. No surprise, therefore, that the first challenge of the year is coming from him: “We aren’t just there to be in, we are also there to be successful. As a professional, it is always your goal to be in contention for race wins and titles. I am convinced that we have the package to do so, but it will be a tough and a long season. The way in which DTM develops is great. Competition will be super hard. After my guest start at Assen, it is cool to be part of it,” Lamborghini works driver Bortolotti says. He is considering the arrival of former DTM/ITC champion Manuel Reuter as the sporting director as a real benefit for Grasser Racing Team: “We have a lot of working front of us, but we have a very good package and therefore the best conditions to be successful. At the end of the day, we want to win.”
For drivers and teams, preparation for the new season is already in full swing. For Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), this means in particular: “We still have to learn a lot with the new BMW M4 and continue to develop the car. We have to be realistic,” says the brother of Kelvin van der Linde from the ABT Audi team, third in the standings last year. Sheldon van der Linde is positive about the changes in the regulations: “A new set of tyres on the Friday is very helpful for us, but it is also good for the fans when we are turning more laps,” the South African said. He will be testing at Hockenheim on Thursday and added: “For me, it is crazy how Gerhard Berger and Frederic Elsner have turned DTM around. We will have almost 30 cars. Good for the fans, but for us as the drivers, it will be extremely hard. The championship is probably stronger than ever before, consistency will be key in the end.”
Maximilian Götz, who switched from the HRT team to WINWARD within the Mercedes-AMG family, is aware that consistency will again be the key to success in the battle for the title this year. “At the moment, the days are really intense. Every detail matters. Also with my personal trainer, I am working even harder and getting better and better.”
DTM Trophy, the talent pool on the DTM platform, is getting more and more into the limelight. Louis Henkefend is a newcomer in the series: having won the BMW M2 Cup title, he is now graduating into DTM Trophy with the Project 1 team. “DTM is my big dream. And by graduating from the BMW M2 Cup to DTM Trophy, I have come one step closer towards this goal,” he says. Team principal Timo Bernhard, who is also running a pair of Porsches in DTM Trophy, underlines the significance of the series: “Giving junior drivers the chance on the same platform just makes sense for us.”