Youngsters to the fore! The youngest was the fastest, both in DTM and in DTM Trophy. Sébastien Loeb, René Rast, Mirko Bortolotti, Laurens Vanthoor and defending champion Maximilian Götz: during the official DTM test at Hockenheim, the established stars all slotted in behind 19-year-old Marius Zug. At Hockenheim, the world’s GT racing elite assembled with 29 professionals from 15 nations. Never before in the 35 seasons of the long-standing series so far, the field had been more international and so many racecars hadn’t been on the grid since the DTM comeback in 2000. The start of the promising season with spectacular motorsport is in three weeks’ time, from 29 April until 1 May at the Portuguese Grand Prix circuit of Portimão.
Marius Zug, the 19-year-old DTM rookie, surprised at the Hockenheim Grand Prix circuit by posting the outright fastest time in DTM. With the Audi R8 run by Attempto Racing, the German kept his fellow Audi driver, two-time runner-up Nico Müller (SUI/Team Rosberg), at bay, just like other drivers ranked among the favourites such as Lamborghini works driver Mirko Bortolotti (ITA/Grasser Racing Team) and three-time DTM champion René Rast (GER/Audi/Team ABT), the latter making his comeback in DTM after one year. The fastest Mercedes-AMG driver was Lucas Auer (AUT/Team WINWARD), the fastest with the new BMW M4 two-time champion Marco Wittmann (GER/Team Walkenhorst), the fastest Porsche driver Austrian Thomas Preining (KÜS Team Bernhard) while Felipe Fraga (BRA) drove the fastest Ferrari from the Red Bull AlphaTauri AF Corse team. Six brands will be up against each other in the 2022 DTM, a number last seen in the early 1990s.
There was particular attention for Sébastien Loeb. During the season opener in Portugal, the nine-time rally world champion will be participating in the two sprint races – both on Saturday and Sunday starting at 1.30pm CEST – with the Ferrari, replacing Nick Cassidy (NZL). The eyes of the fans – who had free access throughout the test – were also on David Schumacher, the son of ex-Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher. With the Mercedes-AMG of Team WINWARD, the 20-year-old ranks among the newcomers. Meanwhile, Nicki Thiim (DEN/Lamborghini), driving for the T3 Motorsport team from Dresden, created a first in the long history of DTM. The two-time FIA endurance world champion is the first son of a former champion to make it into DTM. And as a result, not only Ralf Schumacher, but also DTM legend Kurt Thiim, the 1986 champion, watched his son’s activities at the track and in the pits. In spite of April weather, the 29 DTM drivers completed 3,804 laps across the two days, a distance of 17,400 kilometres.
The DTM organisation ITR with Gerhard Berger at the helm has created a promising motorsport package. Together with DTM, getting plenty of attention from all over the world, the talent pool DTM Trophy, DTM Classic and the BMW M2 Cup as an entry-level one-make series build the unique DTM platform to which DTM Esports and in future DTM Electric belong as well. On four days during the first gathering of the DTM family, Hockenheim provided a promising foretaste.
“Hockenheim was a great start of the season. Finally, the big DTM family got together again with many new faces and above all with fans. It will be great when the spectators will be allowed back into the grandstands and into the paddock again during all the races. That is what this sport subsists on and we have been missing it dearly. I can promise all the fans: DTM will provide spectacular racing, that much is certain after the first encounter,” Frederic Elsner, director event & operations of the DTM organisation ITR, can’t hide his anticipation. ITR also used the test days at Hockenheimring to extend its contract with series’ partner Autohero, to present CUPRA as the new Official Car Partner as well as Al Kamel Systems as the new technology partner for timekeeping and monitoring of the track limits. New is also that DTM will be broadcast live on ProSieben for the first time, with the unchanged ran racing team with Andrea Kaiser, Matthias Killing and Eddie Mielke. The new expert TV commentator next to Timo Scheider is ex-DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller.
In the talent pool DTM Trophy, the DTM’s junior race series with production-based GT sports cars, a rookie set the pace as well. Daniel Gregor, living less than 60 kilometres down the road from Hockenheim, ended up fastest of the DTM Trophy test day. For the 16-year-old, it was his first outing with the Porsche 718 Cayman from the team of former endurance world champion and Le Mans winner Timo Bernhard, who has been supporting Daniel Gregor since his days in karting. The second-fastest, German Theo Oeverhaus (BMW/Walkenhorst Motorsport), is also just 17 years old, third-fastest Colin Caresani (NLD/BMW/Project 1) is only 18. “DTM Trophy comes with a strong field and close competition. Especially the young drivers caught the attention on the test day. That was perfect preparation for the season,” said Martin Tomczyk. The 2011 DTM champion is the new DTM Trophy series’ manager.
Peter Oberndorfer, the ex-DTM driver who is DTM Classic series’ manager, is equally positive looking ahead to the new season. “Getting two new series underway with DTM Cup and DRM Cup under the DTM Classic banner is exciting. With over 20 regular entries in both cups and many guest drivers who have registered, I am confident that we will have good grids with spectacular cars, some of them unseen for a long time. Some of the ex-professionals will be joining us as well and surely be spicing up the action in the field even more.”
The BMW M2 Cup used the test day at Hockenheim not only for many laps of the race track. The young drivers, male and female, including Lilly Zug, the 16-year-old sister of DTM rookie Marius Zug, were trained for the new season in a comprehensive workshop. “In the junior series, word has got around that the BMW M2 Cup is a super stepping stone,” says Nico Amende, sales, BMW M. From the 2021 BMW M2 Cup, four drivers, Louis Henkefend, Colin Caresani, Rodrigo Almeida and Nick Hancke made it into the 2022 DTM Trophy.