Watching over equal chances – the scrutineer
They are ever present during a race weekend. The six scrutineers on behalf of DTM partner DEKRA are closely inspecting the manufacturers and their teams. They are observing, measuring, weighing, controlling and collecting huge amounts of data. “But we merely determine, we are not the referees,” Wolfgang Dammert, DEKRA’s motorsport coordinator, underlines. “It is only to race control and the stewards of the meeting to decide about possible penalties.” DEKRA has been involved with the DTM since 1989 and has been ‘official technical partner’ since 2005. Over the years, the effort for the scrutineers has become significantly more intense. A job with many aspects in which you are not just making friends.
“In fact, the atmosphere between the team of technical scrutineers that consists of the technical delegate on behalf of the DMSB and the six DEKRA experts on one hand, and the manufacturers, teams and drivers on the other hand, is very collegial,” Dammert says. “But, depending on what is being inspected, that can change according to the situation. At times, the tone of voice can get a little more direct.” For a race series of this quality, a high level of precision during the technical inspection is a basic requirement. In case of any irregularities and subsequent penalties for their respective cars, the teams can be certain that their rivals are being controlled in exactly the same way and thus, fair competition is largely guaranteed.
Before the 2016 DTM season gets underway, the DEKRA employees led by the DMSB’s technical delegate have carried out the supplementary homologation of the cars on the basis of the final race in 2015 at Hockenheim. At the DATC (DEKRA Automobile Test Center) in Klettwitz, the cars were fully disassembled and every single part was measured and documented. “The data acquired there are fundamental for the entire 2016 season,” Dammert says. He regularly travels to the events one day prior to the official start of the meeting. First of all, he handles the lottery for the tyre allocation and he inspects the safety features on every car, going from one pit box to another. Dammert: “In such a top-level series, it doesn’t happen that somebody competes with a safety belt that is no longer approve or with a really old helmet, but nevertheless, inspection of the safety equipment is an indispensable element of the basic scrutineering prior to every meeting.” Once this job has been completed, there is work in the office in the DEKRA trailer. After all, the results of the inspection have to be documented. Like the ones used by the teams and the manufacturers, the DEKRA trailer is a multifunctional one. It includes an office space, a meeting room and all the measuring equipment that is required during a race weekend.
This includes, for instance, scales and measuring arms. Prior to first free practice, Dammert’s colleagues arrive as well. Meetings are held and focus points are determined, together with the technical delegate. “Of course, we can’t inspect every element of the technical regulations during a race weekend,” Dammert says. “After the meetings, everybody is going about his own activities.” These are varied and provide a huge amount of data. Technical data of a DTM car are taken and analysed during every session. Using the so-called Incident Cam, the scrutineers keep up with the action on track from a driver’s perspective. Dammert: “In case of discussions about certain situations, this footage is often very helpful.” Two scrutineers are mainly occupied with analyses of the footage and the data that have been collected – which often leads to the decision about a more thorough inspection at a later stage. “The cars of the fastest drivers are always inspected anyway. Additionally, the data give us indications that we then follow up on,” Dammert says. There are many opportunities for inspection. Measuring with the 3D measuring arm, weighing, fuel samples and special checks like the one on the test bed for the control shock absorbers of the cars are only a few examples.
Moreover, the scrutineers are observing the activities in the pit box. In doing so, they are assisted by one technical assistant each, provided by the event organisers. Parts that may not be touched or opened in between parts of the events according to the regulations, are sealed. This starts with the monocoque, the gearbox and the performance weights and ends with the slick and rain tyres. Moreover, the engines and the brake discs are sealed for the entire season. When the seals are broken before the official permission is given to do so, penalties are imposed that can be quite hard. The same applies to parc fermé infringements, which are also closely monitored by the scrutineers. Dammert: “After qualifying, for instance, only certain activities are allowed. Our technical assistants and scrutineers are monitoring them.”
All the checks and inspections have one thing in common: to ensure that fair competition is guaranteed. To this end, every process and result has to be documented. According to Dammert, the size of this documentation becomes ever more impressive: “In the first years, it was 70 percent inspection and 30 percent documentation. Nowadays, you sometimes get the impression that it is almost exactly the other way round. But, of course, documentation is relevant to make it all watertight, or, as people say in our professional slang, ‘safe against protests and appeals’.” In the next season, this documentation will become particularly comprehensive, as the scrutineers have to inspect the car very thoroughly based on the almost complete homologation of the vehicles. To this end, the car involved is sealed after the final race on Sunday. One or two days later, the scrutineers arrive, disassemble the car in all its parts and compare their results with the data acquired prior to the start of the season and the reference parts that are kept in storage. But no mater how thoroughly the scrutineers are working, the real dimension can not be ignored. Dammert: “Our team of the technical delegate of the DMSB and the six DEKRA Experts is faced with a much larger number of engineers from the three manufacturers. Every one of us is doing his utmost in the area in which he is specialised and as an experienced team, we have been able to build up comprehensive knowledge over the years, which is very much acknowledged and appreciated by everyone involved in the DTM.”