With the largest field of participants in over two decades, drivers from 15 nations and GT race cars from six brands, DTM is getting its 36th season underway. On Tuesday and Wednesday this week already, the official test days at Hockenheimring are the first encounter. Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes-AMG and, for the first time, Porsche have been entered for the new season in the long-standing race series with a total of 29 GT race cars. The drivers’ field assembles 15 nations and 36 high-class championship titles. This Monday morning, DTM surprised with the announcement that nine-time rally world champion Sébastian Loeb will be making his debut in the internationally acknowledged race series. The Frenchman will be participating in at least two races with the Ferrari of the Red Bull AlphaTauri AF Corse team as a replacement driver for New Zealander Nick Cassidy.
Spectators and fans can already convince themselves of the extraordinary quality of the 2022 DTM vintage during the Hockenheim test days, and that even free of charge in the paddock and the grandstand overlooking the famous Sachs corner. No doubt, the countdown for the season is running: from 29 April until 1 May, DTM is racing at Portimão in Portugal for the first time with the first two of 16 sprint races. DTM will also visit Imola for the first time, will return to Spa-Francorchamps and will again race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria and in Germany at Norisring, DEKRA Lausitzring Turn 1, Nürburgring and at Hockenheimring for the finale.
Such a large field with 29 permanently entered race cars hasn’t been seen in DTM, founded in 1984, since its restart in 2000. Eight Mercedes-AMGs, six Audi R8s, six Lamborghini Huracáns, three Porsche 911s and two Ferrari 488s form the impressive field. Porsche, a dominating force in the Deutsche Rennsport-Meisterschaft (DRM) in the 1970s, is embarking on its debut season in DTM. BMW is racing with the newly developed M4 in 2022 and Audi and Lamborghini are running further developed versions of the R8 and the Huracán.
The drivers form an illustrious star ensemble with a wealth of achievements between them. Next to Sébastien Loeb with nine world championship titles, Dane Nicki Thiim, Porsche works driver Laurens Vanthoor (BEL) and Mercedes-AMG contracted driver Maro Engel (GER) have been decorated with five further titles from the FIA, the global governing body for motorsport. Moreover, the class of 2022 combines 16 further international titles and 38 wins in classic endurance racers. Six DTM championship titles are the combined total of Audi-works driver René Rast (GER), who became DTM champion in 2017, 2019 and 2020 and is now returning with the Audi R8 run by Team ABT Sportsline after a one-year absence, BMW works driver Marco Wittmann (GER/BMW/Schubert Motorsport), the 2014 and 2016 champion, and Maximilian Götz (GER), who claimed his first championship crown in October 2021.
Talking about the defending champion: Götz, from Lower Franconia, has moved to a different team within the Mercedes ranks and is taking on the title defence with Mercedes-AMG Team WINWARD Racing. The team with the highest point score last year was Ferrari outfit Red Bull AlphaTauri AF Corse while Mercedes-AMG ended up as the manufacturer with the highest number of points. The youngest driver in the field is 19-year-old Marius Zug (GER), who is driving an Audi R8 run by Attempto Racing. Among the rookies is also David Schumacher (GER), only one year older. The son of ex-Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher is competing for Mercedes-AMG Team WINWARD.
“The 2022 DTM is spectacular and fascinating. In any case, the indications could hardly be any better,” Frederic Elsner, director event & operations of the DTM organisation ITR, is convinced. “The quality of the drivers’ field is simply outstanding, it is the ‘who is who’ of GT racing. And with 29 cars permanently entered, the quantity is tremendous, too. Our expectations really have been exceeded. We are all very curious to see what the drivers and the teams will be staging on the circuits. First and foremost, however, fans at the race tracks and spectators in front of the TV screens all over the world can look forward to breath-taking motorsport.”
Nine-time rally world champion Sébastien Loeb makes DTM debut
DTM debut by Sébastian Loeb: in the season opener at Portimão in Portugal from 29 April till 1 May, the nine-time rally world champion will be racing as a replacement driver for the Red Bull AlphaTauri AF Corse team. In the first two races, the Frenchman is replacing New Zealander Nick Cassidy who due to another driver commitment isn’t participating in all the races of the 2022 DTM season. Rally legend Loeb will be racing the Ferrari 488 in the colours of Red Bull’s premium fashion brand AlphaTauri, his teammate Felipe Fraga from Brazil is racing the Red Bull Ferrari throughout the season. As a replacement driver, Sébastien Loeb is eligible to score points according to the regulations.
Gerhard Berger: “Having the most successful rally driver of all times with us in our season opener at Portimão is a genuine highlight that fans can look forward to. The achievements in his career speak for themselves, but nevertheless, it will be a hard competition against very strong drivers, for Sébastien Loeb as well. Standing in for Nick Cassidy, he will be fighting for points with the AlphaTauri Ferrari, so therefore I am certain that a champion of his stature will be highly motivated coming to the race track.”
The 48-year-old Frenchman impressively has nine world championship titles and 80 rally wins to his tally but is also quite familiar with circuit racing. For instance, he participated in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2006 (2nd place) or in the World Touring Car Championship in 2014 and 2015 (3rd in the final standings in both years). In 2022, Loeb already had success, too: he won the second and the seventh stage of the Dakar Rally and finished second overall. Only one week later, he won the Monte Carlo Rally for the eighth time. In February, he scored his fourth career win in the Race of Champions, held at the frozen Baltic Sea in Sweden for the first time, ahead of four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel. Moreover, Loeb owns his own race team named ‘Sébastien Loeb Racing’.
Prior to his DTM debut, Sébastien Loeb says: “Throughout my career, I have always liked to change between disciplines. DTM is a famous championship and as the opportunity came up for me to compete in it, I took it, of course. It is an exciting challenge because the driving style is entirely different.” The Frenchman is well aware of the fact that he will be up against the world’s best GT drivers, but he is looking forward to the season opener: “Now, it is time to work. I will be up against specialists in such racers and my last proper GT3 race already is a long time ago. My goal will be to find my rhythm as well as I can and I will try to use my experience to give the team good feedback about the set-up of the car. I know that it will be difficult but the cars really are fun to drive. Really fast, nice cars. Therefore, I am looking forward to it,” the 48-year-old says.
The team’s goal has been clearly stated already: defending the teams’ title with Brazilian Felipe Fraga, New Zealander Nick Cassidy and initially also Frenchman Sébastien Loeb and also aiming at the DTM champion’s title.