DTM Diary: And suddenly, all hell breaks loose
Heat haze above the tarmac, the excitement is tangible. Just a few moments ago, the starting grid was swarmed with visitors, mechanics, journalists and persons in charge. But now, the talks have come to an end and the final works have been completed. Everything seems to be frozen. And then, all of a sudden, all hell breaks lose. The thunder of the 24 500bhp V8 engines comes as a kind of a physical shock. The spectators at the Hockenheimring virtually are blown of their seats. The 2015 DTM season finally has begun.
Thursday. At the Hockenheimring, all the preparations for the first DTM race meeting of the 2015 season have been completed. In the run-up, the paddock was planned down to the last detail. Every race series and every team is standing at their assigned lots. Right behind the garages stand the painstakingly cleaned DTM trucks, glittering like pearls on a string. In the garages, the DTM mechanics and engineers are working on the cars to squeeze the maximum performance out of them. And they want to do so undisturbed – to be able to keep the technical secrets. After all, every tenth of a second can be vital in the qualifying sessions and the races. Even the slightest change could make for the crucial difference between win and defeat.
Just a few metres away, the visitor is provided a completely different picture: in the paddock of the Formula 3 teams that use to contest three races in the support programme of the DTM weekends, you may watch the crews working on the single-seaters. In open pavilions, mechanics are bustling around, coverings are taken off, performance data are collected, repair works are executed. Nothing is hidden from the eyes of the visitors. And the same applies to the paddocks of the Audi TT and Porsche Carrera Cup teams that also race in the DTM support programme. Open tents, garages and pavilions extend over the bigger part of the Hockenheim paddock that consequently resembles a huge workshop. Meanwhile, the hospitalities of the manufacturers represent a big contrast to this picture. The partly two-storey buildings were erected in next to no time and ooze a touch of glamour. Inter alia, they are used for feeding the numerous team members.
Friday morning. For he first time, the DTM cars’ V8 engines fill the stadium with their roar. That’s the moment the fans have been waiting for so long. The roll-our is a relatively relaxed affair as the Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz teams are testing if every screw and every bolt has been properly fixed, if every component works as it should. While the drivers familiarise themselves with car and track. Lap times don’t matter yet. But the fascination already is there. At speeds of more than 200kph, the drivers charge to the stadium section and then, the tyres start screaming in the Sachskurve and the Südkurve. No matter if last year’s winner Marco Wittmann in his BMW, Audi’s DTM institution Timo Scheider, Mercedes-Benz rookie Lucas Auer or one the other 21 drivers: the roll-out sparks the desire for more.
Saturday. The sun is shining, the track is dry. Perfect conditions for the first qualifying session and the first race. The Saturday round will end after 40 minutes and is contested without obligatory pit stop. The goal of the new DTM regulations: to provide the crowds even more pure race action. The spectators are thrilled and the excitement can be sensed everywhere at the Hockenheimring – the field is on the way to completing the information lap. A short time later, the starting lights are switched off and the new regulations quickly prove to have been a perfect move: as early as in turn one, the spectators are provided action galore – including position changes and retirements. One could believe that some of the drivers are somewhat over-motivated, in the season opener. The result: more incidents and retirements. For the crowds, however, the race is an extraordinary pleasure. Only at the very top, there isn’t a lot of fighting going on. Due to the performance of Audi’s Jamie Green who secured the pole in the qualifying session and seems to effortlessly open a big gap on the rest of the field – to secure a superior win, in the end, followed by the Mercedes-Benz drivers Pascal Wehrlein und Paul Di Resta.
Sunday. Changeable weather. The qualifying session is contested in wet conditions but the track has dried in time for the race. Time for a tyre gamble as more rain has been forecasted to fall during the race. Nonetheless, nearly the entire field opts for starting on slicks. Today, the DTM aces will have to race for 60 minutes and come in for an obligatory tyre change. And what a spectacular race this will be! On the first lap alone, two leaders will be passed for the lead. Then, the forecasted rain begins to fall and the pit-lane is all hustle and bustle. Within two laps, nearly the entire field pits for wets. But despite the hectic, everything works flawlessly. Out there on the track, the drivers opt for a more careful approach than on Saturday, now. Nonetheless, Audi’s Adrien Tambay’s race comes to an early end. The Frenchman pits and stops for good. The only retirement in the Sunday race. Meanwhile, Mattias Ekström und Gary Paffett provide the crowds motor racing at its best. In the end, Ekström celebrates his 20th DTM win, with his Audi, while Mercedes-Benz ace Paffett battles his way up from 23rd position on the grid to finish third. Audi’s Edoardo Mortara finishes runner-up and leaves Hockenheim after the first DTM race weekend of the season as championship leader.
As early as on Sunday evening, the first team trucks hit the road. After all, the next race begins as soon as the cars have crossed the finish line. The DTM enthusiasts at the Lausitzring already may look forward to fantastic motor racing as the circuit located in the Lausitz region will stage the second chapter of this great season. And one thing may be taken for granted, from 29th to 31st May: when the silence takes over, It won’t be long before all hell is going to brake lose