Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: DTM Media, R-Motorsport, BMW
With the upcoming "Dream race" at Fuji this weekend, where the Japanese Super GT samurais cross swords with the DTM knights, it's time for a review of the 2019 DTM season.
2019 was a landmark for DTM in multiple perspectives. Biggest change was the shift in engine specs from a naturally aspirated V8 to 4-cylinder turbo engines. That, and a couple of other changes to the rule book, were agreed upon between promoter ITR and it's Japanese partner Super GT to bring the series in line with each other. This culminated into three Japanese Super GTs joining the DTM Final in Hockenheim, and the participation of Audi and BMW in the final round of the Super GT at Fuji this weekend.
The circus also welcomed a new manufacturer to the series: R-Motorsport and HWA, who was responsible for the Mercedes' in previous years, brought British pride Aston Martin to the series. How did these changes pan out and how will we remember this year's championship?
Rast leading Audi dominance
There can absolutely be no doubt that Audi was the strongest manufacturer this season. In numerous races, specially in the second half of the season, top-10 grid positions were taken up largely by the Ingolstadt brand. Same goes for many races. In 18 races René Rast has won 6 and scored a podium in 5 others. He suffered three retirements, once in leading position, once in 2nd. He only finished off the podium twice: once in 4th and once in 6th.
Closest competitor Nico Müller, also in an RS 5, was consistent in scoring points: only one race where he scored 0. Although he managed to win 2 races, he simply didn't profit from Rasts' retirements when he had the chance, and often finished one or two positions behind his brand colleague. Marco Wittmann for BMW scored twice as many victories as Müller, but simply wasn't consistent enough to pose a threat. Next to his four victories, he scored 0 points in four races and finished only in the second part of the top-10 in 5 others...
Out of the 18 races, Audi won 12, BMW 6. 5 of the 6 victories for BMW took place in the first half of the season, often under wet conditions.
First season for R-Motorsport and Aston Martin
A new car, a new engine and a new series for successful GT3 team R-Motorsport. The new Class 1 rule book, that made the series more internationally oriented, was an important reason for Aston Martin to back the entry of R-Motorsport. The cars were built by the experienced engineers of HWA, who ran the Mercedes' CLK DTMs for years and years.
The season was challenging to say the least. Not rarely, the cars were plagued by technical malfunctions, mainly gearbox related. Also the engine fell slightly short of the Audi and BMW turbos. This was most clear on tracks with longer straights, such as Zolder, Assen and the Lausitzring. The car itself though definitely had basic speed. Under wet conditions this became most evident, resulting in front grid positions such as in Hockenheim I (P3 for Di Resta) and Brands Hatch (P4 for again Di Resta). In other rainy qualifying sessions the Astons were found near the top 10. Race pace and strategy wise the R-Motorsport did more than well. They were often found to pick up the crumbs in the top 10 that Audi and BMW dropped. There were double top-10 finishes in Assen (7th and 8th for Juncadella and Di Resta), Brands Hatch (8th and 9th for Juncadella and Dennis), Zolder (6th and 8th for Dennis and Di Resta) and Hockenheim II (7th and 8th for Di Resta and Dennis).
Overall I would say the first year was definitely encouraging. Next year, improvements are imminent. Aston Martin has confirmed its support for the coming years, especially now there is potential to also race DTM cars in other series. However, due to a difference in vision, the cooperation with HWA will not be continued into 2020. Let's hope the experience of R-Motorsport in other series with Aston Martin, and the experience it gained in a season of DTM, will cover the loss of this DTM mastodon.
Class One rule book delivers
The new Class One rule book delivered what it promised: the fastest DTM cars in history. On all tracks the cars went round multiple seconds faster than in previous years. Did this add to the excitement? In all honesty, not on TV. On track though, the difference in speed was definitely visible. Ahead of the season, it was feared most that it would kill the defining DTM-engine sound. This fear luckily did not materialize. The new 4-cylinder turbo engines produce a different, yet not less impressive roar.