The German-based DTM kicks off its new era this weekend at Monza as the series severs all links with its touring car roots and adopts the GT3 regulations that have proven a hit around the globe. As expected and planned, the move has sparked a new lease of life for one of Europe’s most prestigious motor racing championships.
The demise of the DTM’s old ‘silhouette’ Class One regulations in the wake of successive and once-unthinkable withdrawals from Mercedes and Audi left series boss Gerhard Berger with big decisions to make on a new direction. But in truth, embracing GT3 was always the obvious choice given the breadth and depth of cars built to the category rules by more or less every premier-class manufacturer in Europe.
The result is an entry packed full of familiar names and leading teams, both from the DTM’s previous era and Europe’s thriving GT3 scene. Audi, Mercedes, BMW, McLaren, Lamborghini and Ferrari will all be represented in an eight-round championship that is split evenly across German circuits and others around Europe.
Among the drivers, Alex Albon will inevitably draw attention following his demotion from Red Bull’s Formula 1 team at the end of last year. The Thai will share his drive in a smart AlphaTauri AF Corse-entered Ferrari 488 GT3 round by round with highly-rated Kiwi Nick Cassidy who has clashing Formula E commitments. In the rounds he does participate in, Albon will be under pressure to adapt to a very different form of motor sport compared to F1, in which specialists tend to thrive. They include Nico Müller, DTM runner-up in successive seasons, who like Cassidy juggles racing in Formula E with a Team Rosberg Audi R8 drive. But for the Swiss the DTM takes precedence over the electric single-seater series, which makes him a hot tip as the title favourite.
Others familiar names include ex-F1 stars Timo Glock (ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3) and Christian Klien (JP Motorsport McLaren 720S), plus DTM race winners Lucas Auer, Marco Wittmann and Daniel Juncadella. How they stack up against incoming GT3 regulars such as Maximilian Götz and Kelvin van der Linde will be one of the talking points of the season.
British interest will be upheld by double DTM champion Gary Paffett, in a Mercedes-AMG GT3 run by Mucke Motorsport – although the 40-year-old, who last raced in the DTM in 2018, might be forced to miss the first two rounds because of his advisor role to Mercedes’ Formula E team. Another Brit, 23-year-old former W Series driver Esmee Hawkey, is scheduled to race all year after signing a late deal to drive a Lamborghini Huracan for T3 Motorsport, presented in what are becoming the ubiquitous black and white colours of increasingly prolific sponsor ROKiT.