Photo: TouringCarTimes

Dieter Gass: “The new ITR is taking many positive steps for DTM”

Dieter Gass faces his first season in the DTM as Head of Audi Sport, with the German having a positive outlook on what is to come for the series.

The main talking point at the season start is the expectations on the new slick compound developed by tyre partner Hankook for the new regulations coming into force this year.

Asked about whether the teams had an indication of how many laps could be completed before the tyre passes its optimal use window, Dieter Gass said: “For the pre-season tests we run in three very different tracks, Portimao, Vallelunga and Hockenheim, and the data we have collected gives us no indication of how many laps we have before the tyre performance drops. It depends on too many variables, such as tarmac type, temperature, set-up and driving style, so the optimal use window of the tyre will vary from driver to driver.”

The Head of Audi Sport dismissed the possibility of making more than one tyre change per race: “It’s not a possibility for us. Yes, the performance of the tyre and lap times drop, but when you consider the pit delta is not optimal to come to the pits more than once.”

DTM has banned the use of tyre warmers, which means that drivers will start the race on cold tyres, raising concerns about the compound safety and integrity before it reaches the right temperature. However, Gass isn’t worried about this possibility: “From what we have seen in testing, we have no reason to think that the tyres could be damaged when a kerb is hit and they are cold. We are calm about this and tyre integrity is not an issued for us.”

A further change is the reduction of DRS usage, now limited to 12 laps in the race with a maximum of three activations per lap. “We believe is a change in the right direction. We are trying to encourage a more intelligent use of the DRS, giving more weight to the driver’s skill and ability. We want drivers to use the DRS as an overtaking tool, not as a lap time improvement tool,” said Gass.

Audi has shaken up its driver line-up, welcoming René Rast to a full time driver and Loic Duval as the series only rookie this year. “With all the changes in regulations it’s important to have experienced drivers, and so Mattias (Ekström) and Jamie (Green) have done more work during the winter than the others. We think we have a well balanced line up, Loic brings his experience a WEC and Super GT champion which we think will be useful to develop good race strategies,” said Dieter Gass.

The series promoter ITR went through a heavy renovation during the winter, with Gerhard Berger now becoming the new chairman. Asked about how things are developing, the Head of Audi said: “We are happy about the direction things are taking, we think it’s a good thing as the new ITR board is bringing positive changes to DTM.”

Mattias Ekström is again on a double programme this year, combining DTM and World Rallycross at Hockenheim and also during the season. The Norisiring race, scheduled for the 2nd of July clashes with the WRX event in Holjes (Sweden), with the Swede having to choose where will he be competing that weekend.

Asked about the situation and whether Audi has nominated a reserve driver, Dieter Gass said: “We have to decide where Mattias will be representing Audi that weekend. The priority for Ecky remains DTM, but we understand that missing an event will practically nullify his chances in either championship. As for a replacement, we have been looking at the options and we have a pretty good idea of who could be, but we will leave the decision and any necessary announcements until the last possible moment.”