We have to wait a bit longer for the season to start due to the Coronavirus. Today, we’re catching up with the most important DTM news of the past months and discuss the influence of COVID-19 on the motorsport world.
After a long but well-deserved five-month winter break, it seems we will have to wait a bit longer for the season to start. This week, the official pre-season testing was supposed to take place in Monza, Italy. However, due to the spread of the Coronavirus in the northern part of the country, the series’ organizer ITR decided to relocate the test to the Hockenheimring, Germany. But, as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, last week DTM series organiser ITR has taken the decision to cancel the four days of testing, with the full support of Audi and BMW.
“The health and safety of all people involved is our highest priority” commented ITR Managing Director Marcel Mohaupt. “The general situation around the coronavirus, in conjunction with the directives made by German government authorities, and consideration for those involved, means we have taken the decision to cancel this test. Naturally, we’re disappointed that the DTM – along with many other sports – is having to take such measures, but obviously these are for the greater good.”
The first race of the season is scheduled for the 24-26th of April at Circuit Zolder, Belgium but it’s still not certain if the event is taking place or not. “With regard to the start of the 2020 season, we are engaged in close dialogue with our partners, manufacturers and local race organisers.”
The effect this virus has on a global level is very high. Looking at motorsports – most events have been postponed or cancelled. Formula E has suspended its season for the next two months. Formula One cancelled its season opener in Melbourne last weekend. Plus, FIA and Liberty have decided to postpone the next two races in Bahrain and Vietnam as well.
So, it is still a question when the DTM season will start. But obviously, the health of everyone involved is more important, so we understand and respect all decisions taken.
In other news, a lot has happened over the last five months.
Halfway through December, Bruno Spengler dropped a shock announcement that he would leave the series after 15 years. The Canadian started his DTM career at Mercedes, where he drove between 2005 and 2011. He then made the switch to BMW. A successful one, as he won the championship for them in 2012. During his DTM career, Spengler won 16 races, secured pole position 18 times and made it onto the podium 51 times. In total, he amassed an impressive 1,024 points, showing how hugely successful he’s been in the series.
“Very few drivers have had as big an influence on the DTM as Bruno Spengler has in the past 15 years,” said BMW Group Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt. “In winning the title in his first season for BMW in 2012, he achieved something that nobody believed possible at the time. In doing so, he earned a permanent place in the history of BMW Motorsport.”
“The fact that he broke the 1000-point mark in his 15th season in 2019 underlines the outstanding status that Bruno has earned for himself in the DTM. Nevertheless, we were of the opinion that 2020 is the right time to head in a new direction together for the coming years. This decision was not an easy one for us.”
In 2020, Spengler will race a BMW M8 GTE in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as well as being a test and reserve driver for the BMW Formula E team. “I am happy that we are able to keep Bruno as a valuable member of the BMW family. We will ensure that he can bid a worthy farewell to BMW fans in the DTM next year.”
“I had a fantastic time for 15 years, during which time the DTM became part of my family” Spengler commented, saying that he’s obviously disappointed he will no longer be racing in DTM. “I have been racing in the DTM for almost half of my life. In my 195 races, I have enjoyed some fantastic success – above all, of course, my title win with BMW at Hockenheim in 2012. This title win will forever be very closely linked to Charly Lamm for me.”
“As a sportsman, I would obviously have liked to have stuck around for a few more years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my mechanics and engineers who I have worked with all these years. And with whom I have celebrated so many successes. Even though it has come as something of a surprise to me that I won’t be contesting my 16th DTM season, I’m looking ahead. I will really miss the DTM fans. I am looking forward to saying ‘goodbye’ to them in 2020.”
At the end of January, R-Motorsport announced the team has withdrawn from DTM with immediate effect. This news came as a bit of a shock after just one year competing in the series. The Swiss team made their debut last season with four Aston Martin Vantage DTM cars, taking over Mercedes’ place after they left the series.
R-Motorsport suffered a difficult year with their drivers Daniel Juncadella, Paul di Resta, Jake Dennis and Ferdinand Habsburg. In 18 races they only scored a total of 49 points. The team worked together with HWA – a successful former Mercedes partner. In October, the announcement came that the two parties split. Unfortunately, they didn’t find a new partner or solution.
“The reassessment of our motorsport program showed that we want to set new priorities for the future and that the DTM engagement would not be appropriate for us anymore” commented team principal Dr. Florian Kamelger. He continued: “However, I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Gerhard Berger and the ITR, to Dieter Gass and to Jens Marquardt for the common engagement in DTM during out debut season.”
Finally, a well-known figure in the DTM paddock announced his retirement – Arno Zensen. After 25 years being the team boss of Team Rosberg, he hands over his duties to Kimmo Liimatainen. He has been involved in the team since 1994 together with founder Keke Rosberg. The team started in the series with Opel but made the change to Mercedes in 2000. But, in 2006 they changed again – this time to Audi. Together they scored two driver’s and team’s championships with Rene Rast in 2017 and 2019.
“Even though saying goodbye does make me feel a bit wistful, the time has come for me to move on and make room for somebody else,” said Zensen. “With Kimmo, the team has chosen a strong successor for me. I am confident that he will do a good job.”
In the next couple of articles, we’ll introduce the 2020 grid to you. And we’ll be bringing you updates around the Coronavirus and its effect to the season start.