DTM 2021 season preview – A new era with GT3 cars

Feature Image Credit: DTM

After a long but well-deserved winterbreak, DTM’s almost back to racing. Just a few days left until the lights go green in Monza, Italy. In this season preview we talk about the key points for the upcoming season, discuss the teams and drivers and where they’re heading in 2021.

First of all, the most important point for the upcoming season: the new format. After years of racing with the Class-One regulations, DTM came to the conclusion that wasn’t the best option. It just wasn’t working the way they had hoped. Also, after Mercedes left at the end of 2018 and Audi’s shock announcement they would quit at the end of last year, BMW was the only brand left. No other brands were interested as the DTM cars became too expensive over the last years. It was clear they had to find a solution. They did. Even though there are already quite a few GT Series in Europe, they still decided to change to GT3 cars. Maybe the most logical option, as most manufacturers already have a GT3 car ready. The only question was, would brands be interested and willing to compete in this new format DTM had chosen?

Well, even though it was unsure in the beginning, a beautiful grid has formed for the 2021 season with six different manufacturers. Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Ferrari, Mclaren and Lamborghini. Some new faces, but also quite a few familiar faces who just couldn’t say goodbye to the DTM. For example: Nico Mueller returns, only to switch teams to Team Rosberg, racing the Audi R8 LMS Evo. Mike Rockenfeller switched teams to Abt Sportsline, also staying loyal to Audi. For BMW, Timo Glock, Sheldon van der Linde and Marco Wittmann return, first two racing for ROWE Racing and Wittmann for Walkenhorst Motorsport. Lucas Auer returns for the new team HTP Winward Racing, in a Mercedes-AMG GT3. Last year’s champion and one of the other title contenders, Rene Rast and Robin Frijns won’t be on the grid due to focussing on Formula E this year.

Daniel Juncadella, Maximilian Gotz, Gary Paffet are familiar to the series, all three return to the series this year. Another special thing for the upcoming season: rivalry between two brothers. Sheldon van der Linde, who’s familiar to the DTM. His older brother, Kelvin has always had the dream of racing in the DTM one day. That dream comes true now, entering the series with the experienced Abt Sportsline team. ‘For me, competing in the DTM is a dream come true and I’m very grateful to be given this opportunity’ van der Linde commented. ‘I know the R8 LMS extremely well, so this exciting phase of the DTM is the perfect moment for me.’

Image Credit: DTM

Philip Ellis, known from other GT series, also makes his debut this year after dreaming of DTM for years. A surprise, ex-F1 driver Alexander Albon will race in a Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo this year, sharing his car with Nick Cassidy when he has other commitments with Red Bull Racing in Formula 1. Two females will represent in the series this year, Sophia Floersch for Abt Sportsline and Esmee Hawkey for T3 Motorsport, driving the Lamborghini Huracan GT3.

The 2021 season will kick off in Monza, Italy. An iconic and fast track, mostly known from Formula One. The second race weekend was scheduled for 2-4 July at the street track Norisring. However, this race has been postponed. Then, from 23-25 July DTM will race at the Lausitzring in Germany. Testing took place there as well, so they have at least some date compared to other tracks. Next on the list is Zolder in Belgium, from 6-8 August. A few weeks later, in the weekend of 20-22 August the series are heading back to Germany, racing on the famous Nurburgring. The battle continues for two races in a row outside of Germany. From 3-5 September on the Red Bull Ring, Austria and from 17-19 September in Assen, The Netherlands. As usual, the final race of the season will take place at the Hockenheimring in Germany.

For now, it looks like we don’t have a new date for the Norisring yet.

Also new this year because of the GT3 regulations, BoP. Balance of Performance. Meaning, that per race it is being evaluated which car gets how much extra weight to compromise a possible advantage. The latest information says that for the first race of the season, Audi gets the most extra weight added to their Audi R8 LMS, based on data from testing. It’s a complex system that a lot of GT drivers have complained about these past years. Also new in DTM this year is the tyre partner. In the past they were using Hankook tyres. But now they are changing to Michelin. Another thing drivers have to get used to.

And lastly, let’s have a quick look at what happened in testing at the Lausitzring. Drivers used these few days to get familiar with their cars and teams. Collecting important data and test new regulations, for example the start. Mercedes’ Maximilian Gotz ended all three days on top of the list. The German DTM returnee also ended on top of the most completed laps in testing: 236 laps. ‘Of course, I am super happy. Not just with the result, but also with the progress we have made’ Gotz commented. ‘Being on top three times is a cool feeling, obviously. But it doesn’t say anything at all. We will only find out where we really are during the season opener at Monza. It will definitely be exciting.’

All drivers except for Sheldon van der Linde, Christian Klien, Esteban Muth and Esmee Hawkey were present at the Lausitzring. So, it’s safe to say that everyone is ready for the new season to start. Free practice 1 will start at 13.00 local time on Friday June 18th. Both qualifying sessions on Saturday and Sunday start around 10 am local time.

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