One of the fastest-growing auto racing tours in Europe, the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) series launched into its 2012 season with a 40-lap main event at the 4.574-mile Hockenheimring GP Circuit April 29th.
Winning 7 of the 10 official DTM races last season with the Audi A4, the 2012 season presented a major transition for the German auto manufacturer. Firstly, their 2011 DTM championship-winning driver Martin Tomczyk defected to the newly-activated BMW effort in the series (BMW returns to DTM competition for the first time since 1993). Drivers Mattias Ekström for Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline and Mike Rockenfeller with Audi Sport Team Phoenix are favoured to be lead contenders for the championship title in Audi’s 2012 DTM effort.
Bracing for fierce competition with luxury car rival BMW’s M3 and Mercedes-AMG’s C-Coupe in the DTM series, Audi decided to retire the A4 from series in 2012. Replacing the steadfast performance of the sedan, the A5 coupe carries the integrity of the four rings. The Audi A5 DTM car conforms to new series regulations designed to standardize the parts among the three manufacturers for better competition and reduced costs. Despite what these vehicles might share, Audi was determined to demonstrate they still have an edge on their DTM competition.
After months of testing for all manufacturer and teams, Mattias Ekström started the career of the Audi A5 off right during Saturday’s qualifying. Scoring pole in the #3 Red Bull-sponsored Audi A5 at the Hockenheimring GP Circuit, Ekström entered Sunday needing to hold into this position over 40 laps in order to usher in 2012 victory. In front of the 22-car field, the #3 Audi A5’s chance of an early season win promising as Ekström led through the first four laps of the DTM main event. Unfortunately, Mattias Ekström efforts were thwarted by mistimed braking into turn two on lap 5. Ekström and the Red Bull Audi A5 lost the lead to Mercedes-AMG driver Jamie Green.
Ultimately in the Hockenheimring event, the Mercedes-AMG C-Coupes were just too strong in the season opener of the 2012 DTM series. Winning the event was #11 Mercedes-AMG C-Coupe of Gary Paffett finishing ahead of Jamie Green’s car. After 40 laps, Ekström brought the A5 of Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline across the finish line 19.4 seconds behind Paffett in 3rd place. “It’s always nice to be on podium. Our aim today was to be at the very top. Unfortunately, we only managed third place.” said the two-time DTM champion and lead Audi driver Mattias Ekström after the Hockenheimring event.
In fifth place, the #9 Schaffler-sponsored Audi A5 of Mike Rockenfeller secured a hard-earned top-5. “The race was very strenuous, I had a good start. After that, I was struggling because we’d changed the brake beforehand and tire pressure was a bit low. I had to let (Gary) Paffett pass at the start.” said Rockenfeller. In front of 142,000 spectators over the course of the race weekend, the Audi A5 DTM cars had four cars placed in the top- 10 with Miguel Molina crossing the line 9th and Filipe Albuquerque’s A5 finishing 10th.
While some of the Audi A5s were able to fight for top runs on the Hockenheimring road course, brand drivers Timo Scheider and Adrien Tambay had less than stellar finishes caused by on track incidents. The #4 Auto Test-sponsored Audi A5 of Scheider dropped out of the competition on lap 13 after race contact. “After running as the last car in the field I managed to advance to 14th place.” Timo Scheider commented about his early race run. “Then I overtook Roberto Mehri under braking and he hit my car. After that the car was so heavily damaged that it made no more sense to keep on driving.”
Calling his race result a shame, France’s Adrien Tambay spent only lap 3 behind the wheel of his Audi A5 DTM car before retiring. “ On lap one everything was going really well and I was shooting for seventh place. But then an accident happened in front of me and there was a lot of commotion. I was right in the middle of a sandwich.” said Tambay. The French driver would add, “Still, I take positive stock of my first DTM weekend and am already looking forward to the Lausitzring.”
Viewing the race as a whole for the new Audi A5 DTM car, Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich said, “It was nice that we were able to decide the new DTM’s first qualifying event with Mattias Ekström’s pole position. Naturally, we wanted to convert that into victory as well. Yet we were lacking the race performance to do so today.”
Completing the first of ten point-scoring DTM events in 2012, the Lausitzring is next on May 6th. “Now it’s our task to do everything we can so that we won’t be able to only show a perfect performance in qualifying but also in the race at the Lausitzring.” proclaimed Dr. Ullrich.
Information and photo source: Audi AG, DTM
While the Audi R18 was foiled at the Petit Le Mans race by Peugeot for the third year in a row, the German automaker did have reason to celebrate a major road race victory on the east side of the Atlantic Ocean. In the second to last event in the popular DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) series, a 2.517-mile road course in Valencia, Spain hosted what was the race weekend Audi Sport Team Phoenix driver Martin Tomczyk secured the 2011 DTM Championship. In a dominant race where Audi A4 sedans took the top six spots, Audi has one race remaining in an effort to capture a team championship in DTM. The ABT Sportsline organization is 5 points ahead of a Mercedes-Benz heading into a late October race at the Hockenheim track.
Since 2009, the technical regulations for the DTM Series have been frozen in the interests for controlling costs for competitors. For the upcoming 2012 series, the series is allowing the entrance of new cars, opening the door for German carmaker BMW to join Mercedes-Benz and Audi. For the existing program fielded by Audi, the auto company hopes the blow the doors open on the competition with two fewer doors. Campaigning a car based on the A4 sedan since 2004, Audi is set to unleash a new DTM race vehicle based on the A5 two-door.
Presented as the 2012 race machine, the Audi A5 DTM was revealed ahead of the past Frankfurt Motor Show. More than a year and a half in development as the R17 project, the two-door Audi A5 DTM car measures 5.01 meters (197.24 inches) in total length and is 1.95 meters (76.77 inches) in width. Compared to the 2012 model year Audi A5, the A5 DTM car is more than 15 inches longer and 3.77 inches wider for race track competition. In compliance with rules of the DTM sanctioning body, the Audi A5 racer rides within a mandated 2,750 millimeter (108.27 inch) wheelbase.
A departure from the four-door A4, the Audi A5 DTM for 2012 exhibits the refined exterior of the street vehicles. The new body structure created through the combination of carbon fiber and steel also sees the additional use of aluminum for suspension parts. Adhering to new aerodynamic regulations as well as to take advantage to improved airflow sciences, the Audi A5 DTM where a larger rear wing. Overall, Audi says the design is also more resistant to damage due to race contact (fender-to-fender contact is a main ingredient in DTM racing).
Along with the constraints for wheelbase length, other technical requirements of the motorsport series meant Audi needed to build the 2012 A5 DTM race around over 50 components that are shared among the other automakers. Meant for safety and a method for controlling costs, the new Audi is able to boast a total cost reduction of more than 40 percent over the previous A4 race car. While the DTM series preserves their exclusive tire supplier deal with Hankook and electronic control units from Bosch, this racing organization is careful to ward off the runaway costs that killed the previous edition of the European road racing category.
One of the ways Audi was able to control the price on the new A5 DTM is to reuse the tried and proven four-valve V-8 engine. Producing around 460 horsepower, the Audi A5 DTM will feature a new six-speed gearbox. For 2012, the Audi A5 DTM car will be more driver-friendly with a steering wheel paddle-shifter.
As Audi feverishly strides to compete with BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the sales marketplace, the fight in the 2012 DTM Series should be just as aggressive.
Information source: Audi AG, Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters
Photo source: Audi AG