After the demise of the Class One touring car class, the DTM was left with one all-important question: how to move forward without its iconic, high-tech silhouette cars? The solution was found in Group GT3, marking the return to production-based race cars in the DTM for the first time since 1996.

The adoption of GT3 regulations opened the door to a whole new era in DTM – a more exotic era with not only Germany’s touring car strongholds Audi, BMW and Mercedes-AMG on the grid, but world-famous gran turismo brand Ferrari and its Italian archrival Lamborghini, and Britain’s high-class McLaren joining the field as well. Gone are the touring cars of old, in are the grand tourers that have taken over the world of GT racing.

The rules

While not exactly mirroring the ADAC GT Masters, its similarity is undeniable: two sprint races per weekend at Germany’s premier racetracks, a full grid of top-tier GT racers and teams including some overlap between the series. Fans of the ADAC GT Masters will have an easy time getting up to speed with the new DTM. The difference is in the details.

After ten years as the DTM’s exclusive tyre supplier, Hankook is replaced by Michelin. The French tyre manufacturer is renowned for its high-quality rubber and often heralded as the best and fastest tyre in all of GT racing.

The tyres in combination with a power increase via a DTM-spec Balance of Performance promises the DTM to become Germany’s fastest GT3 series, akin to how the International GT Open championship every year steals the headlines at Spa-Francorchamps when its teams and drivers are seconds per lap quicker than at the Spa 24 Hours. A glimpse of just how much quicker the DTM’s version of BoP is, was given during the Kateyama test days at Monza during the preseason when GruppeM Racing with Daniel Juncadella was significantly quicker – often over a second – than Italian GT top contenders Audi Sport Italia and Ceccato Racing.

All of this will be achieved through standard GT3 machinery after initial exploration of DTM-specific parts to increase performance was met with lukewarm response from the manufacturers.

To even things out, the top three in each race get to carry additional weight going into the next race: 25, 18 and 15 kilograms respectively.

Another main difference from its fellow German counterpart are the single driver line-ups. A carry-over from yesteryear’s DTM, each car will have one dedicated driver instead of two.

Standing starts have been abolished under pressure from the manufacturers. As GT3 cars are not build to endure the high stress of standing starts, manufacturers were outspoken in their opposition of DTM’s intention of retaining this format with DTM-exclusive car parts. Instead, rolling starts as seen in every professional GT3 championship is being introduced in the DTM.

Schedule

Looking at the schedule for 2021, it shows a balance between German and European rounds – although none of the international races are more than a few hours driving from the German border.

Three race weekends are held in Germany with four cross-border visits to Italy, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands. The Norisring round on the streets of Nuremberg, originally scheduled for early July, and the original 2021 season opener at St. Petersburg’s Igora Drive have been postponed.

Monza opens the season this weekend with two 55-minutes plus one lap sprint races – the standard format for DTM since 2019. Lombardia was originally scheduled to host an old-format DTM race weekend in 2020 but as the early season got cancelled, returns to the calendar in 2021 instead.

After a one-month gap left open by the Norisring, momentum ramps up with biweekly race weekends all the way until the end. The circus arrives at the Lausitzring on 23-25 July, followed by the series’ second foreign visit when Zolder hosts the third round on 6-8 August. The Nürburgring welcomes the DTM on the short version of the Grand Prix course on 20-22 August. Two foreign races follow at the Österreichring on 3-5 September and TT Circuit Assen on 17-19 September. As per tradition, the Hockenheimring closes out the season on 1-3 October.

Full schedule

18-20 June / Monza (IT)
23-25 July / Lausitzring (DE)
6-8 August / Zolder (BE)
20-22 August / Nürburgring (DE)
3-5 September / Österreichring (AT)
17-19 September / Assen (NL)
1-3 October / Hockenheimring (DE)

Teams and drivers

Six brands have joined the grid for the new era in the DTM, the largest number since the inception of the modern Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters in 2000. They are represented by 13 teams – all privateers as full-blown works outfits are no longer permitted – bringing a total of 19 cars.

Audi

Long-time stalwarts of the DTM, the Ingolstadt manufacturer is continuing its presence in the series but in a more reduced form than its previous factory programmes in the Class One era that it originally intended to leave after 2020. The Audi R8 LMS GT3 has proved a success for the manufacturer and for teams, with numerous examples raced across the world and wins never in short supply. It will have two teams representing it this year – both very familiar names in the paddock.

Both teams running Audis have a long association with the brand through decades running the more touring car-spec cars the DTM has previously been more familiar with. Both have swapped to the Audi R8 LMS GT3 to continue their associations with the four rings.

Abt Sportsline
#3 Kelvin van der Linde
#9 Mike Rockenfeller
#99 Sophia Flörsch

First up is Abt Sportsline. The Audi tuner and multiple DTM champion is running a trio of cars mixing DTM and sportscar experience and young talents. 

Mike Rockenfeller – a man whose CV far exceeds our word count, having taken class and overall success at Le Mans, a Daytona 24 Hours victory and a Sebring 12 Hour victory for Corvette – looks to add to his drivers’ title in the DTM with a new team, having swapped from Phoenix Racing in the winter – the team deciding not to run GT3 cars in the DTM.

He’s joined by Kelvin van der Linde, the young South African quickly becoming Audi’s go-to factory driver in GT racing having two ADAC GT Masters titles to his name and numerous remarkable stints in R8s the world over. He’s making his debut in the DTM this season – joining his younger brother and BMW rival Sheldon on the grid – and will surely be an early title favourite.

Rounding out Abt’s entry is Sophia Flörsch, the first of two women racing in the series in 2021. The young German has branched out into sportscar racing in recent years – taking a drive in Richard Mille’s all-female WEC entry – but this will be her first time in a GT3 car and she’ll be racing it for the first time at the high-speed Monza, not a track for the faint of heart.

Team Rosberg
#12 Dev Gore
#51 Nico Müller

2021 will be Team Rosberg’s 21st season in the modern era of the DTM- even longer if you factor in the team’s time running Super Touring-spec Opels – and it’s hungry for success as the series resets. 

In that vein, its lead driver is leaving no stone unturned in order to finally secure the title. Nico Müller finished second behind René Rast in last year’s championship, and with Rast focussing fully on Formula E – rather than combining both like Müller is doing – the Swiss racer is combining his experience racing in GT3, featuring top fives at the Nürburgring 24 Hours, to take the fight to his rivals.

He’ll also be a key tutor for his young team-mate – American racer Dev Gore. Gore, who sat out 2020 due to the pandemic disrupting his plans, had made the switch into GT racing in 2019 with a trio of races for Strakka in GT World Challenge Europe but will no doubt focus on 2021 as a learning year as he finally gets a full-season drive in the Audi R8 LMS GT3.

BMW

For one season only, BMW switches to the M6 platform replacing the M4-branded silhouette car previously raced in the DTM before the introduction of the BMW M4 GT3 in 2021. The last remaining manufacturer to stay loyal to the DTM in its Class One era has two teams representing its brand bringing three cars this year.

Walkenhorst Motorsport
#11 Marco Wittmann

Adding to its busy schedule, Walkenhorst Motorsport makes its first foray into a GT3 sprint championship. The endurance specialist from Melle enters a single car for Marco Wittmann who is also amongst its drivers in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup. 31-year-old Wittmann celebrates his tenth year with the manufacturer from Bayern in which he was crowned DTM champion twice – in 2014 and 2016. Now it’s up to him to combine his past success in DTM with the success achieved in GT3 – most recently a second place in the Nürburgring 24 Hours – and return to the winning form that eluded him in 2020.

Rowe Racing
#16 Timo Glock
#31 Sheldon van der Linde

Like Walkenhorst, Rowe Racing is also depending on DTM experience in the form of Timo Glock and to a lesser extent Sheldon van der Linde.

Remarkedly, 2021 will be the first-ever full-time GT season for Glock, who despite decades of motorsports has never contested more than a handful of GT races per year. The 39-year-old from Hessen is going all-in this year with not just a full season in the DTM but GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup with fellow BMW squad Walkenhorst as well. Glock joined BMW in 2013 on the back of six seasons in Formula 1 and has won five races in eight seasons in the DTM. The #16 BMW M6 GT3 driven by Glock will carry non-homologated parts as this is one of two cars utilising the Schaeffler Paravan Space Drive steer-by-wire system already successfully tested in action by W&S Motorsport in this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours.

He joins forces with Sheldon van der Linde. The young South African is slowly but surely establishing himself as one of BMW’s superstars having won his first DTM race last year in Assen and finished the season in sixth place. Be it endurance or sprint races, given the right equipment, the 22-year-old is always a threat and with still so much potential left, will be one to watch.

From a technical perspective, Rowe Racing can count of many years of experience racing the Michelin tyres at the Nürburgring. This familiarity should come in handy getting the team up to speed quickly with the new DTM tyre supplier.

Ferrari

Think of Ferrari GT racing, and the first name that comes to mind is de facto factory squad AF Corse. Amato Ferrari’s team is joining in the DTM fun for the first time with a pair of 488 GT3 Evos with the hope of demonstrating the same success in Germany as it has enjoyed in pretty much every other country the team has raced in down the years.

AF Corse
Alpha Tauri
#23 Alexander Albon/#37 Nick Cassidy
Red Bull
#30 Liam Lawson

Possibly the most intriguing entry into this year’s championships comes from energy drinks giant Red Bull. Moving from prominent sponsor to quasi-team owner, the Austrian outfit has put its name to the two AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3s. 

The drivers are also an interesting trio. In the first car, ex-Formula 1 racer Alex Albon – dropped for 2021 – will look to impress his employers in an Alpha Tauri-branded car he’ll be sharing with Super GT star Nick Cassidy, the latter swapping in when Albon is on F1 duty. 

Driving the Red Bull-stickered car is rising single-seater star Liam Lawson, in an odd move for the New Zealander. Already a race winner this year in FIA Formula 2, you’d imagine Lawson is aiming to impress the team’s chiefs with his maiden sportscar campaign.

One thing that is for certain is the pedigree of the team. There’s no better team versed in the how to win a GT race than AF Corse, as well as being World Endurance Champions, Le Mans 24 Hours winners and victories in pretty much every series it has competed in, the squad is the de facto Ferrari factory team – so expect top quality machinery and the best-prepared drivers.

Lamborghini

Lamborghini has become GT3s strongest marque in recent years, with championship titles coming in British GT, GT World Challenge Europe and many more besides. The Huracán GT3 Evo has showed no signs of weakness and has demonstrated its strengths as a car perfectly suited to both experienced racers and those just learning the GT3 ropes. 

T3 Motorsport
#10 Esteban Muth
#26 Esmee Hawkey

T3 Motorsport is a team of change for 2021. Switching Audis and Bentleys for a pair of Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evos, the team is also expanding from its comfortable home of ADAC GT Masters to run two up-and-comers in the DTM.

The first is 19-year-old – and youngest in the series – Esteban Muth. A former single-seater racer, he’s branched out into GTs in recent years – taking a pair of podiums last season in the GT4 European Series. He’s moving up to his highest level of racing to date as he represents the Italian brand in the German series.

Joining him is Porsche Carrera Cup GB graduate Esmee Hawkey. The Brit has gradually progressed up the sportscar scene after starting her career in Ginetta Juniors and taking in spells in GT Cup – in a Porsche Cayman GT4 – before ultimately becoming a class winner in the Carrera Cup last season. She makes the step into GT3 cars for the first time, testing the car recently at both Monza and the Red Bull Ring. 

McLaren

Whilst not as numerous as other manufacturers, McLaren’s 720S GT3 has proved to be a more than capable racer in the right hands despite perhaps not achieving the popularity it truly deserves. A familiar site for a number of seasons now, the 720S is a force to be reckoned with in the right hands.

JP Motorsport
#15 Christian Klien

The German squad is taking its first steps racing the McLaren 720S in 2021 and, in addition to part-programmes in GT Open and GT World Challenge Europe, the team is running a three-race entry for Christian Klien taking in the Zolder, Nürburgring and Assen rounds.

Planning a full-season campaign in 2022, the team could be in a position to challenge in the DTM. There’s plenty of trophies already in the cabinet, and Klien has experience of DTM’s new tyre supplier Michelin through his front-running pace in GT Open.

Mercedes-AMG

Long-time supporters of the DTM, Mercedes is back after two years away and returns for yet another ruleset for the German series – previous efforts have included Super Touring, Silhouette and Class One machines – and is by far the biggest manufacturer for this year’s campaign. Factor in the brand’s history and experience in the DTM to the immense speed and popularity of the Mercedes-AMG GT3, and Mercedes could be the manufacturer to beat.

Mercedes-AMG Team HRT
#4 Maximilian Götz
#5 Vincent Abril

Haupt Racing Team is one of the newer teams on the sportscar racing scene, but under the dutiful watch of former 1990s DTM driver Hubert Haupt, the squad hasn’t taken any time in quickly getting up to speed – not surprising considering the core of the team is formed by former employees and co-owners of Black Falcon’s successful GT3 team.

Indeed HRT has also recruited a pair of top GT aces to ensure it can at least finish best of the considerable Mercedes entry – if not in the overall championship. Maxi Götz has raced on pretty much every corner of the globe for the three-pointed star – proof of his skill coming at this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours, where he finished third behind the wheel of a Mercedes-AMG GT3 for DTM rivals GetSpeed.

He’s joined by Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup champion Vincent Abril, who has easily translated his considerable GT talents from Bentley to Mercedes. Like Götz, he’s tasted glory pretty much everywhere he has raced and has a reputation as a reliable GT racer who is not to be counted out for being a title contender.

Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing
#8 Daniel Juncadella

The GruppeM team is relatively new compared to some of the squads in this year’s DTM, but it has already carved out a reputation as a juggernaut of the GT racing world going as far back as the glory days of the FIA GT scene where it was a multiple race winner. 

Making footsteps back into sportscars in recent years with Mercedes, the team has signed up a man who is no stranger to both the German marque and the DTM – racing for six years for both Mercedes and Aston Martin’s ill-fated spell in the series – Dani Juncadella.

The Spaniard is a winner in DTM and in GT World Challenge Europe, in a career where he’s been pretty much on the cutting edge in terms of pace and results wherever he’s raced.

Mercedes-AMG Team Space Drive
#18 Gary Paffett/Maximilian Buhk

Don’t be fooled by the name, Space Drive – more on that in a minute – is actually the famed Mücke Motorsport which is running the innovative Space Drive system which is fundamentally a steer-by-wire system which was trialled in anger for the first time at the ‘Ring just a few weeks ago. You can read more about the system, which was explained to GT REPORT, here.

Taking to the electronic wheel are both Gary Paffett and Maxi Buhk. The former is the lead driver for the #18, but due to his clashing Formula E commitments – which has forced him to miss the opening round – Mercedes’ star factory driver Buhk will step up and pilot the AMG in Italy.

Buhk’s expertise is well-known as a champion racer in GT series world-over, and Paffett is no slouch either. A two-time DTM champion for Mercedes, he’s branched out to GT3s in the last couple of years and will be looking to add more positive results to his CV when calendars allow. 

Mercedes-AMG Team Winward
#22 Lucas Auer
#57 Philip Ellis

Winward Racing comes into the DTM with a spring in its step after winning the GTD category at this year’s Daytona 24 Hours and has plenty of experience of getting a Mercedes to run quickly and reliably. 

The same descriptions could arguably be applied to both of the team’s drivers for 2021. Lucas Auer has taken numerous victories for Mercedes during the last era of touring cars in the DTM and has taken podiums in everything from GT Open, to GT World Challenge Europe and Super Formula in Japan in a twisting sort of career which has encapsulated both single seaters and sports cars.

Philip Ellis has taken a more straight-forward path to his current destination, and was indeed part of the four-driver squad that triumphed at Daytona back in January. Whilst that’s by far his most high-profile result, it’s not his only success as he’s picked up podiums and wins in Europe and the USA having raced with Winward in both IMSA, the Michelin Pilot Challenge, and ADAC GT Masters in recent years.

Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed
#36 Arjun Maini

Rounding out the mammoth Mercedes entry is the GetSpeed team which will be very familiar to readers of GT REPORT’s VLN coverage. 

The German squad has racked up thousands of laps on the Nordschleife over the years and certainly knows its way round extracting the most from a Mercedes-AMG GT3.

That knowledge will prove key to Arjun Maini getting up to speed quickly. The Indian has had a long spell in single seaters but is now changing things up by swapping to sportscars. A win and numerous top fives in the Asian Le Mans Series arguably justifies his decision to switch, but this will be his first season in GT3 and will be hoping the knowledge of the GetSpeed crew will be of benefit come the opening round.

Preview by Joe Hudson and Miguel Bosch.

 
 

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