DTM newcomer Philip Ellis made quick work of establishing himself in the series. Within two race weekends, the Mercedes-AMG Team Winward driver piloted his #57 Mercedes-AMG GT3 to his first victory with a series of daring overtakes on the banked Lausitzring.



A less successful weekend at Circuit Zolder has left the German-born Swiss-British driver – racing under the Swiss flag – in sixth position in the championship, but with plenty more races to go remains in contention for the title.

Ellis’ arrival in the DTM follows several years of increasing success in GT3; winning in the ADAC GT Masters, GT World Challenge America and 24 Hours of Daytona has risen his profile in motorsports. With Winward Racing making the step into the new era of the DTM, Ellis was offered the opportunity to race one of its Mercedes-AMG GT3s.

“I actually always wanted to do DTM, but it was never a realistic option during the time when it was still Class One,” Philip Ellis explains.

“Now it was a lucky circumstance with DTM changing to GT3 cars, me having a very successful start of the year with winning GTD at Daytona, and also having a strong last half of the season last year. Everything turned out very well and I was a bit lucky of course with the change to GT3 and then Winward decided to do DTM as well. It just matched perfectly. I got the chance, and I took it.

“I always wanted to do it, and I still want to do it! I would love to see myself here for a couple of years.”

So far, things have been up and down. While the opening weekend at Monza and the most recent races at Zolder offered only a handful of points, the Lausitzring saw Ellis score a win, pole and a fourth place to launch him into title contention.

Despite the peaks and valleys, he enjoys everything that’s come his way so far even if it’s different from what he’s used to from GT3 racing.

“I think it’s awesome! Of course, it’s different compared to Class One racing the last couple of years, but I think it’s a good change they made with a lot of new manufacturers and drivers – and some old drivers as well, old as in old DTM, the guys that did Class One and stayed like Marco [Wittmann], Rocky [Mike Rockenfeller], Nico [Müller], and so on. It’s a nice mix of drivers and cars.

“You do feel it’s very different to win in DTM, or do well in DTM, compared to other GT3 series because of the feedback and resonance you get from people. Even the broadcast feels different to me. It’s very exciting, but at the same time you want to do well, especially now.

“The pressure is a bit different; the game is a bit different. One car, one driver. I’m a rookie now, so to speak, but I’m not really, so it’s always hard to judge who is doing well and who isn’t.

“Especially here at Zolder, we had twelve cars in four tenths. It’s very hardcore, and it’s super cool!”

Unlike any other GT series Ellis knows, the DTM is all about the one driver per car. While different, the approach to a race weekend isn’t very different than when he shares the car with others – although it does change some aspects of it.

“Me, personally, no, it doesn’t change my approach to the weekend. I think, also in the ADAC GT Masters or when I shared cars with any other drivers, my feedback would also tend to be the same: you always want to maximise the performance of the car, unless there is one drivers who is really struggling with one specific characteristic of the car. But luckily, I never really experienced that in the last years that somebody couldn’t drive the set-up that I was leaning towards when we had debriefs.

“So, for me that didn’t change much, the only thing that does of course change is that you don’t have the confirmation: if you feel something on the car, does the other driver feel the same thing, or does he maybe have another idea?

“The best example was last year with Marciello on the car [in the ADAC GT Masters], which helped me a lot to develop myself as in giving feedback and what to look for in the car, how to make it faster, and how to really get through the weekend, what to do and what not to do.

“So, no, it didn’t change much, but it’s probably a bit harder because you don’t have that confirmation, you don’t have that second guy putting what you’ve said to the test.”

The only true reference for Ellis is his teammate Lucas Auer.

“Usually, we don’t really speak much with the other AMG drivers – maybe a little bit, but very general, no one really wants to give any hints. We are all AMG, but it’s still everyone’s own team so everyone in AMG wants to be the best AMG team, of course.

“The best feedback I really get is from Luggi [Lucas Auer]. But also with him, we tend to have a bit of a different set-up of the car. He prefers it to be a bit more aggressive on the front. It’s probably because he also comes from Class One to now GT3: the cars are a bit more lazy, heavier, not as aggressive, and he would like to keep that style, whereas I’m comfortable with what I know the cars to be from the past few years. It’s a different approach where we come from.

“Sometimes it’s a bit hard to judge what feedback from Luggi to take and what to ignore – ignore as in that it doesn’t fit my car, or my car doesn’t do it. It’s good to know, but sometimes not what we can use. The same for qualifying: sometimes we do a little bit of a different strategy on tyre warm-up so it’s hard to compare because it’s not the same car and every car is a little bit different.

“So that is a change and something you have to learn as well. He is especially good at it because he’s used to it from the DTM years he’s done, having a teammate but on another car. He knows how to play the game!”

In the fight between old school DTM and the new GT3-based DTM, both sides have shown themselves to be capable contestants. Despite a solid lack of GT3 experience, none of the longtime DTM drivers have been struggling and it shows in the racing.

“In the five races we’ve had, there has been nothing that happened on track where I was like, I wouldn’t have done that, or someone doing because he’s been in Class One racing. The guys who came from Class One adapted pretty fast, but I expected them to, because they all are pros, right? They were in DTM for a reason and are still in DTM for a reason as well. I did expect them to all catch up very fast.

“Like Rocky for example, who finished second today [in Race 1 at Zolder], it’s his second podium already and he has very little GT3 experience. Marco [Wittmann] as well, he had a good race, a good qualifying.

“To be honest, I don’t think there’s a big difference where you can see that is the GT3 camp, that is the DTM camp – at least for me from inside the car, maybe it’s different from the outside.”

There is, however, a big difference in how the DTM is televised and covered by the media. Ellis compares it to how the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Series is covered in the USA with a big and active media presence.

“It’s a little bit like IMSA, but it is also different,” he explains.

“This is specifically about you. In IMSA, you have two or three teammates, so the interview is usually with the team, whereas here it’s specifically about you, and there’s a lot of it! After practice, after quali, after quali 2 after the races. But it’s cool, I enjoy it.”

Comparisons to the ADAC GT Masters are, for good reasons, abound. But it differs in the details and the details are what truly sets the DTM apart from the established German GT championship. Ellis knows both.

“The format is almost the same [as ADAC GT]. The same car, only difference are the Balance of Performance and different tyres. We have different tracks, that’s a bit different of course, and the broadcast is a little bit different.

“I would almost say that the racing is actually harder here because everyone is on their own, you don’t have to take care of the car for your teammate here: if you damage the car, it is damaged and it’s your car. I think a lot of people take a lot of risk, maybe a little more than usual, but I like it that way.”

Taking a lot of risk is also what won Philip Ellis his first race in the DTM as he dove into the high-speed banked turn 1 of the Lausitzring to pick his way to the lead and his first race win in the series.

“Not the win, no,” Ellis answers when asked if he expected to be this competitive from the get-go.

“I was expecting to be at the front and fight for those positions and be in a good position this season. But especially not at that race because we qualified only P9. It was a very tough qualifying; I was actually second-best Mercedes and qualified ninth, so it didn’t look great.

“We went into the race trying to get as many points as we could, maybe get a top ten – that was kind of the mentality with which we went into the race.

“I had a good start and went up to sixth place on the first two laps, that was good. Behind the safety car I was thinking what all could happen, and you try to make a game plan, it’s like strategy.

“With the new turn 1 configuration I knew that if you get on the inside the guy on the outside has no chance, there is just not enough banking to make to stick around the outside and carry the momentum and make the pass around the outside. It was clear that if I want to make up the most positions, I would have to dive to the inside.

“The first thing I had to do was make sure that I get a jump on Timo [Glock] next to me. I was restarting from the outside, so the first thing I had to do was jump this guy. OK, then what? Well, then you have to go further because otherwise you’re stuck behind the train.

“I tried to have a good jump on Timo and at the same time I also had a good start on the guy in front – Mike Rockenfeller. I knew I had to make the move because he can’t come down on me when my nose is in. I was kind of ready to get out of the move, driving into the corner with my foot at the brake wondering if he was going to see me. But once he opened the steering, I knew I was through. Full throttle, and trying to carry as much momentum as I could and then I even made the pass on Kelvin [van der Linde]! It was very much like, OK, this went well, almost too well!

“Those kinds of restarts don’t happen very often.”

Coming up on race leader Sheldon van der Linde, Ellis repeated his tactic once more.

“Everyone was fighting the car a little bit into turn 1 on old tyres, because it’s a very fast corner but you don’t have the banking to really support the car. With Sheldon [van der Linde], the moment when I got my nose inside, he basically had no chance. The only thing he could try was to squeeze around the outside and stay there, but it’s a high risk as the guy on the inside might have a little moment and then you both end up in the wall.

“I was hoping he would back out but wasn’t actually sure if he would until he did. And once he did, I knew I was through.

“Then the next challenge arrived: I had to defend against Liam [Lawson]. I expected him to have more pace towards the end of the race because I saw he was staying with me the entire time and it was always the same gap and when I made the move on Sheldon, boom, he made the move on Sheldon. So I was like, OK, hes got more pace in his car as well and he can just turn it on. I was a bit afraid for him to push me very hard and be very aggressive as he would later do in Race 2 with Kelvin. That’s what I kind of expected, but it never really happened. He was close a couple of times in the last couple of corners, but he could never make a move.

“In the last ten laps I was actually pulling a bit of a gap and I could calm down a little bit, manage the tyres, don’t make any big mistakes and bring it home.”

Adding turn 1 to the course proved to be a winning formula, opening up more and better overtaking opportunities and adding a proper thrill for drivers and fans alike.

“That’s a proper turn, you need big-big balls! I think you can put it next to Eau Rouge, it’s very intense. There’s no SAFER barrier so if you do have a mistake, you’re done.

“It’s hard to say [if they should put a SAFER barrier in turn 1], we had only one crash during the weekend – luckily she didn’t hurt herself. It would be a good change to make, just from a safety aspect.

“Luckily, we didn’t have any huge crash in that corner, for sure it would hurt. I had only one small moment in free practice where I hit the exit and hit it quite hard. It’s all concrete, so it hurts a lot. If they plan to use the layout for the next couple of years – which I think they do because it’s been an awesome race to watch and to drive – I think it would be good [to install a SAFER barrier]. But if not, it’s not my decision to make.

“In sector 1 you couldn’t really overtake [before the change to the layout], there is no chance for that, so what would happen is that you get a huge train and nothing would happen. Now, if you have a good run out of turn 1 you can attack into turn 2 – or even into turn 1. In the second race we had some side-by-side going into the corner as well. I think it was the perfect decision to make.”

With a win under his belt and tracks coming up where the Mercedes-AMG GT3 can really stretch its legs, Philip Ellis looks forward to the rest of the season and the success that is possible.

“We’re going to be pretty strong on every track. The Norisring might be our weakest track. It’s not necessarily the track which would suit the Mercedes the most: it’s got two hairpins and a long straight – two things we don’t really like in the Mercedes.

“But I think we will be really good at tracks like Assen, the Nürburgring, Hockenheim, all of these should be good for us. If we can put the package all together and turn it all on in qualifying, I think we can win again.”


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