Testing DTM's 2019 tech
After a winter of intense focus and preparation, DTM’s new cars are finally returning to the racetrack for their first laps of 2019.
This week’s three-day test at Jerez should hopefully give us our first opportunity to catch all three 2019 manufacturers – Aston Martin, Audi and BMW – on track at the same time. With any luck, it might also give us our first peek at the competitive order, too.
A new season brings new challenges – but, this year, it brings significant new regulations as well.
We caught up with DTM’s Director Business Unit Sport and Engineering, Gordian von Schöning, who gave us a quick overview of the most significant rule-changes, how the rule-makers have tuned the regulations to improve the racing, and just what the drivers, engineers and mechanics can expect as they begin their 2019 preparations.
Can you give us a quick overview of the headline rule-changes for 2019?
“For 2019, DTM has a new engine – that’s a huge practical and philosophical difference. Both [governing body & regulator] ITR and the manufacturers had pushed for the change in engine concept, and we’ve switched from a normally aspirated V8 to a smaller, lighter turbo-charged four-cylinder unit. The turbo engine is more efficient, and, most important, more powerful, both in terms of torque and output. This year’s cars will be quite a bit quicker as a result.”
Why the decision to change to a four-cylinder turbo?
“These changes align DTM with Japan’s SUPER GT series. They’ve used turbo engines since 2014, and enjoy really strong racing in their championship. By choosing to adopt those regulations, we’re effectively opening up high-end touring-car racing – our cars can race alongside each other, offering manufacturers far greater economies of scale, and the ability to participate in multiple series.”
What’s the biggest challenge for the drivers ahead of the new season?
“There’ll be a learning process, as always, but we know that our drivers are extremely competent and they’ll quickly get to grips with the new package. The 2019 cars won’t just have a higher top speed, but they’ll be quicker everywhere, especially out of corners.
“The turbo has a significant effect on the power to weight ratio, which has a big knock-on effect to performance.
“Most importantly, I think the drivers are going to really revel in the extra power, and we’ll see the best drivers get on top of tyrewear, performance management and the overtaking aids. I think that’s what will make the changes popular with the fans.”
And for the designers and engineers – what’s the biggest difference for them?
“The new engines have lots of additional housing and installation considerations for the designers – it’s not just a new block, you have to manage the higher temperatures and the greater number of components; the turbo and its sub-components, like the intercooler, exhaust and waste gate.
“That’s the kind of thing that initially looks straightforward, but can throw up lots of small issues that need to be fixed during testing.
“For the race engineers, their immediate priority will be to focus on the engine’s drivability, which they’ll map during the tests. And they also need to establish a good base set-up so that the driver feels comfortable in the car.
“With the new, lower weight, that means there are fewer options to adjust the weight distribution, which makes it trickier.”
How will the regulation changes affect the racing?
“That’s a big consideration for us: we want the regulation-changes to have a positive effect on the spectacle and the experience for the fans. The new engine, the DRS rules and the new boost system should all make the racing more exciting, we think.
“Furthermore, the regulation changes offer the whole field an opportunity to progress. It’s a shake-up of the competitive order, and can see a well-prepared team or manufacturer really capitalise if they have prepared efficiently over the winter.
“I definitely think we’ll see some unusual results, particularly in the first few races, and I think that’s a really exciting prospect for the teams and drivers, and also for the fans as well.”
From a technical perspective, what are you most looking forward to this year?
“Definitely, the sound of the turbo engine! In the V8 era, the engines were loud, but were somewhat monotonous. The new four-cylinder units are going to be playing a real symphony of sounds.
“I’m also looking forward to seeing what R-Motorsport and HWA can achieve with their Aston Martin project. It’s fantastic to have a world-renowned luxury car manufacturer entering DTM for the first time – it’s exactly the sort of brand we should be attracting to the series – and I think they will surprise a few people.
“Finally, we’re going back to Zolder, after almost two decades’ away, and we’re racing in Assen – both are really challenging racetracks and are great additions to the calendar.
“We just need to get started now!”