With Mercedes Benz announcing its imminent departure from the DTM in favour of Formula E, the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft is in big trouble. Audi, it seems is also starting to have second thoughts. In a recent interview with Autosport Audi head-honcho of motorsport Dieter Gass weighed in, “We have seen the championship with two manufacturers in the past, Audi and Mercedes. Having said that, in the current situation it’s difficult to imagine it (reverting to two manufacturers).”
Shooting Themselves in the Foot
There was additional silliness on Sunday at Zandvoort. The winner, Marco Wittmann was disqualified for not having enough fuel in his tank at the end of the race. Not enough fuel in the tank!? That shouldn’t be a punishable offence, that’s the perfect strategy! And not to take anything away from the driver – a perfectly judged drive. I understand the reasoning behind the need for a fuel sample but it’s not like the officials couldn’t take a sample from the car on the grid. The rules are wrong, this is winning and losing by bureaucracy. No fan wants to see that and it’s the credibility of DTM that loses, especially after they’ve already presented the trophy and sprayed the champagne.
The problem is the engineers and marketing people have hijacked the sport, spending too much time worrying about ‘optimising’ and losing sight of what makes great racing – variability. Moreover, the DTM Touring car has effectively become an open wheeler with doors. The wild bodywork hides inboard suspension and a carbon fibre monocoque. The cars are at best a vague resemblance of a production model and are festooned with enough aero appendages to give an Area 51 enthusiast movement. A far cry from the series roots in production based Group A and Class 1.
As touring cars have evolved, they’ve gotten further and further from the road cars they used to be so closely related to – and further and further from the hearts of the fans.
F1 is also Suffering an Identity Crisis
While you can never claim Formula 1, a prototype class, should struggle for relevance – the opposite is true. By trying to be relevant to road cars, F1 – the technical pinnacle of motorsport – is alienating fans. We want 1000hp barely tamable monsters that are loud, brash and twitch in a straight line a-la Ayrton Senna’s Lotus. Not the silent hybrids we’ve been watching that have a tenuous link to potential future road car technology that won’t eventuate anyway because road cars will be driverless and fully electric by that time. Or hydrogen fuel cell. F1 has never in its history been road relevant. Could you ever go out and buy a road car with a DFV in it? What about a 3.0L V10 that revs to 19,000rpm? Why do we have to project road relevance onto it now?Embed from Getty Images
F1 is a place for companies to prove their technological prowess. Links to road car technology? Please, we punters care not. Conversely, touring cars are a place for automakers products to do battle, not for engineers to make the fastest cars conceivable.
Who’s got it Right at the Moment?
The only class that seems to have the balance right is GT3 and look at the explosion in popularity that class is enjoying all over the world. Meanwhile GT4 looks like it might be the closest thing we’ve had to proper high-level production racing for many years. A good touring car class could take a ready made GT4 base, tune it up to 600hp and be properly entertaining. It’d be cheap to develop, you’d have mixed grids as a lot of car-makers are already producing cars and it’s relevant to fans, because you can go into a showroom and buy the road version of that car which is not that far removed from the racing success. Perhaps the DTM should look at an idea like that to attract new manufacturers but it’ll never fly because an engineer somewhere will see it as a step backwards.
Touring cars and prototype racing have got things the wrong way around. Touring cars are trying to be prototypes and F1 is trying to be road relevant. If the rule makers stop trying to satisfy all the vested interests of the engineers and marketeers and press the reset button, we just might wind up with racing we can all love. Everybody wins out of that.