When the shakes get real bad, I like to reach for a tried and tested medium, a mechanism that’s bound to work; the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters.
The 2019 season has concluded and without beating about the bush, German fellow René Rast who pilots an Audi RS5 DTM was crowned champion. With seven victories, thirteen podium visits and 322 accrued points, his preparation along with exemplary teamwork proved decisive over the eighteen races.
Like most racing drivers on the TV he appears amiable, that is until it all goes wrong when he can surprise the unwary commentary team or home viewer with just how many English expletives a German can vehemently put across. Apology accepted, heat of the moment, although who taught you that word, René?
The investment and pressures on teams and drivers are huge which is why salaries and sacrifices are equally so. I’d argue detrimental to health though it’s all too easy to be critical from the comfort of an arm chair. When you’re at 264kmh, it’s raining hard and your four new, cold Hankook tyres leave you vulnerable to being overtaken, not so much.
Less so now but certainly when much younger, I was a frustrated racing driver. But having neither the stomach, talent, ego or focus means my admiration for any truly skilful driver knows no bounds.
In the DTM however, there are boundaries. Strict rules and ever increasing uses of technology to convict offenders and a relatively level playing field makes for great racing with aggressive looking cars. For this last season Mercedes had run off to pump ever more money into Formula 1 and Formula E. This left stalwarts Audi and BMW five representatives each along with a wild card entrant: Aston Martin.
R Motorsport signed a contract to race and had but three months to prepare four cars. Amazingly they succeeded, but at great cost. Managing to produce the best looking car on the grid does not equate to reliable racing car. Far from being non compos mentis, the team had no choice but to use racing as testing. Retirements were frequent involving the gearbox, engine, electrical problems, along with fire.
Basically if anything could go wrong, it did with an Aston Martin badge. Cue expletives publicly aired and more so privately. I personally believe they will return for 2020 more thoroughly prepared, capable of bloodying the German proboscis.
At this piece’s beginning I mentioned the season end for Europe. The DTM wagon train now ships out East heading for an end of school, bring your toys shebang to Fuji Raceway. Combining the Super GT teams with the whole of the DTM regulars, some two dozen teams.
As a precursor to the Japanese finale, three Super GT teams came over to Germany for a dress rehearsal. One Jenson Button driving a NSX. A lone GTR rattled round near the back of the pack. And a Lexus LC500 was tail end Charlie in the first race. Sadly, in the second it crashed after only three corners. Sayonara Lexus-san.
In Europe we have been blessed with in-car footage observing the driver struggle with oversteer or reacting to a manoeuvre, for years. A personal favourite being French touring car driver Yvan Muller who when REALLY mad thrust his gear-changing arm out wide past the wheel and snorted! The Japanese cars will have on-board cameras for this race – bizarrely for the first time – expect all manner of gesticulating.
Racing cars are not known for their creature comforts proving the cockpit to be an interesting, spartan affair. The DTM cars excel in their professional layout: a steering mechanism (one cannot call it a wheel) replete with M&M’s for buttons, a rear view camera and a brake balance spindle. Add a seat – that’s it. The Japanese cars resembling something more B&Q with the scaffold pole roll cage visible, corrugated pipes and clips and a touchscreen for adjustments. In no way shoddy; more haphazard.
But by George, the sound they emit. A suitably raspy, high pitched, wholly Japanese sound that plays against the throaty, side emitted roar of the DTM brigade. Always nice to hear different exhaust notes. It can assist with determining the next car approaching when up close and personal trackside.
And whilst personally enjoying the whine that Formula E generates, nothing comes close to that tingling excitement only a racing exhaust can offer. Both series use turbocharged two litre units, tuned to within a millimetre of their lives to shove out around 600bhp.
In that final Hockenheim race, the Rising Sun’s entrants were somewhat lacking, at the back of the pack; even Button was lapped. I think of it as adjusting your seat after your 6’ 4” brother in law has exited. Course you can still drive, just not quite as comfortably and certainly not as competitively.
My feelings are strongly predisposed to the tables turning at the end of November. On home tarmac, the Super GT boys in their back yard will want to prove a point towards their German rivals. Differing strategies are to be expected. New rivalries will occur. Hard, close racing and on track fireworks are a given. I’m hoping it cures my shakes too: at least till next season.