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The current state of the DTM

DTM seems to be going through a rough patch as of late, with each of the three manufacturers in the series reducing their entries by 2 as a measure of cutting costs, will the series survive this period?

It’s the lead-up to the DTM finale, rumours swirling around regarding each manufacturer’s future in the sport. BMW, Audi and Mercedes all mentioned in whisperings that appear to insinuate each will drop down to six cars. BMW the most strongly linked with this as their transferal of DTM veteran Martin Tomczyk to BMW’s GT team full time and the moving of Antonio Felix Da Costa to the BMW backed Andretti team in Formula E on a full-time basis seemed too precise to be accidental.

Mid-way through the weekend. The rumours that were just bubbling up have now started to boil over as the clumsy, near-heartless dismissal of the long-serving two time champion Timo Scheider by Audi seemed to be perfectly timed and in alignment with the previous whisperings. Scheider, who has served for Audi ever since the reincarnation of the DTM series in 2000 was told only days prior to the start of the race weekend at Hockenheim that his services would not be required for 2017 and even more disrespectfully he was told by phone.

30th of October, Audi confirm that the field will drop to 18 next season. Mercedes had already announced they would go down to six next season but Audi’s Official Press Release revealed that the whole field would drop down from eight to six, the future of many drivers suddenly put into jeopardy, especially at Mercedes after Edo Mortara’s move from the Ingolstadt outfit of Audi to the Mercedes team in the manafacturing hub of Stuttgart.

What now then? This move has been pinned down as a cost-saving move and one that makes DTM look more attractive and affordable to anyone planning to join the series. They appear to be using a new team as a crutch to support this decision, but nobody appears to be interested at this present moment and even if there is a new team waiting in the wings they will have to wait until 2019 at the very earliest to make the plunge into DTM.

The last time the field dropped to 18 the move appeared justified. It was the year 2010, BMW confirmed as a new entrant in 2012. Mercedes and Audi had to juggle a large 9 cars each and a freeze on car development made it unnecessary to run an excessive amount of cars.

It is apparent that the German trio of Mercedes, Audi and BMW have their thoughts nearly completely fixed on other race series and their native series of DTM has been somewhat kicked to the curb. They do see the benefits of still running cars in the championship as the series, one which was romanticised too such a large degree in the early 90s still has a strong following in its native Germany and beyond. But they see that their is no point pouring too much time, effort and money into the series.

Another possibility that the numbers have been cut is perhaps the teams were unprepared for the abandonment of the Class One merge between DTM and the Japanese Super GT. There were big plans between the two when an agreement was signed back in 2012 but the whole thing has gone completely silent and the regulation changes that were planned for previous years are nowhere to be seen. The merge would have seen the two series occasionally combine to race against each other. The idea has evaporated into thin air along with DTM North America.

Mercedes have a lot invested first of all in their all conquering Formula One team and one would be a fool to change anything in a team that is so dominant in the pinnacle of motorsport. But the new prospect is their Formula E entry for 2018 and plenty of focus has shifted over to it as it has been revealed that work has started on it already. Formula E, a series that many car companies take huge interest to as the market for electric cars grows ever bigger. Experimenting in Formula E has great potential as they get to practice their craft with electric vehicles and is beneficial to the marketing of any car manufacturers as they get to plaster their brand all over the favourable environmentally-friendly image.

BMW and Audi also have their sites set on Formula E. Audi pulled out of WEC (a logical decision as their position in the season seemed redundant as Porsche another brand owned by parent company VW also are in WEC) and reduced their DTM squad to facilitate their complete take-over of the Abt Formula E team. Audi were always involved providing the power-trains for the team that are strongly associated with Audi. BMW are providing power-trains for the Andretti team and are looking at the possibilities of a proper works entry.

It will be interesting to see how the series copes with only 18 on the grid. It appears that the series is really looking out for another team to join to increase the grid and re-ignite the series.

Matthew Hull

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