DTM 2013 – Season Preview

With all three manufacturers now having confirmed their full driver line ups, now would seem a good time to give a run a through of the 22 drivers competing in the 2013 season. I’ll go through them in the order they in which finished last year’s campaign, with rookies coming at the end.

Bruno Spengler (BMW)

Finally, after some many years of finishing the year as bridesmaid, the French-Canadian took his first DTM crown. He had to do it the hard way, too, with Mercedes driver and former champion, Gary Paffett, heading the standings virtually all season. Throughout the second half of the season, though,  Bruno would eat away at the British driver’s lead at the top, winning three of the last five races to beat the Thomas Sabo backed  Mercedes to the crown. And don’t forget, he did this with BMW, the manufacturer making its return to the series after many years away. I’m sure I’m not the only one who believes this crown with be the first of many for the 29-year-old, as they do say the first one is always the hardest, and Bruno seems to be one of the main title contenders season in, season out. There is no reason as to why Bruno can’t repeat that success in 2013.
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Gary Paffett (Mercedes)

The Briton is arguably very unlucky not to have been the one taking the 2012 crown back home with him. He was the pace setter throughout the season , coupling good speed and results with great consistency. What cost him the title, unfortunately, seemed to be the mistakes of others, most notably being spun out of the lead on the first lap at the Norisring after Augusto Farfus had been over ambitious on the run to the first corner, and Martin Tomczyk locking up in tricky conditions at Zandvoort and bumping into the side of Paffett, turning the Brit around. Paffett will undoubtably be the lead Mercedes driver again in 2013, with Jamie Green’s departure to rivals Audi and the team’s subsequent reduction to six cars, with 4 of those drivers being young and relative newcomers to the series. If luck is, this time, on his side, Paffett will definitely be a regular front-runner again in 2013, nd he will be determined to take what he will believe he deserved to win in 2012.

Paffett

Jamie Green (Audi)

This will be a big season for the Brit following his move to Audi after a relatively successful eight season tenour with Mercedes, but ultimately eight seasons in which failed to deliver the title. The 30-year-old had a strong campaign, taking one win, which, incidentally, will probably go down as one of the most dramatic finishes to a race ever in the series, as he charged through in the field in changing conditions, taking the lead from Martin Tomczyk at the last corner of the last lap of the race. (Click here to see it, sorry it’s in German). He will be expected to be on form straight away with his new team if he is to retain his reputation as one of the series’ leading drivers, but I believe he has the quality to pull it off.

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Mike Rockenfeller (Audi)

The Audi Le Mans team regular is a consistent driver in the DTM but rarely spectacular, with only the solitary DTM win to his name, which came in 2011. That would/should have been two, had he not been over-cautious in the wet conditions at Zandvoort, handing the lead and eventual win to Audi team-mate Edoardo Mortara. There is no doubting his ability, but ‘Rocky’ won’t be regarded as one the DTM’s pace setters until he replicates his sports car success in the touring car series.

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Edoardo Mortara (Audi)

I really rate this guy, as I made clear in a previous blog. After an impressive debut campaign in the series in 2011, 2012 was the year the Italian made a name for himself as one of the emerging young talents in not just the DTM, but also international motor sport. He took two great wins and was unlucky not be able to mount a title challenge. As a former Formula 3 Euro Series champion, one of 4 on the 2013 grid, Mortara has shown he has what it takes to win a major motor sport crown, and what’s to say he can’t add a DTM title to that collection? One thing is for certain, he’ll be worth keeping an eye on in 2013.

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Mattias Ekström (Audi)

2012 was a difficult year for multiple DTM champion Ekström, with the Swede not managing to finish higher than third (a result he achieved on three occasions throughout the course of the season) in any race. The 34-year-old has been a consistent front-runner in the DTM for over a decade and he is always one that you under-estimate at your peril. He will be determined to put the record straight in 2013, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t do just that.

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Augusto Farfus (BMW)

I’ve already stated in an earlier post that I believe the Brazilian will be a dark horse in 2013, having finished 2012 on such a strong run of results, including two consecutive poles, a win and a third place. Remember that was his maiden season in the series, so he should be hoping for an even better campaign this time around. If he can maintain that good form going into his second season, he may be an outsider for title contention come October.

Farfus Valencia

Martin Tomczyk (BMW)

No driver will be more disappointed with their respective 2012 campaigns than BMW Team RMG driver Tomczyk. After a remarkable 2011 season, in which he won the title for Audi in an older car, the 31-year-old went into 2012 as BMW’s main man, their ‘big signing’. He wasn’t expected to win the title, with many believing that the BMW M3 would be off the ultimate pace for most of the season as the team continued to learn on their return to the series. As it turned out, though, the M3 wasn’t too bad at all, but it wasn’t the reigning champion who was scoring the results, it was Spengler. Tomczyk, in truth, had a frustrating season in which he scored no wins, although he came close at the Norisring as we saw earlier, a race he will probably feel he should have won. However, Martin is a championship winning driver in a championship winning car, so he definitely has what it takes to put things straight in 2013.

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Dirk Werner (BMW)

Werner started last year on a high, qualifying third in his first ever DTM qualifying session. However, it wouldn’t be until round five that he would score his first points in the series, just the one at the Norisring. he picked up his form from there and scored points in four of the last five rounds. He won’t be a title contender, but I think the experienced German has what it takes to start being a  consistent podium finisher in the series.

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Adrien Tambay (Audi)

It is pretty remarkable that the 21-year-old DTM rookie finished in to top ten in the standings in 2012, bearing in mind he scored points just TWICE. What puts the Frenchman up here, however, is the fact that both of those points finishes were very strong ones, not least the second place at Valencia following Edoardo Mortara’s retirement. There were also flashes of real pace in the other races, too, including running 5th for a reasonable period of time at Brands Hatch after a great start. He is continuing to learn and he is still improving, and should be hoping for more strong outings in the new season.

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Filipe Albuquerque (Audi)

The 2010 ROC Champion is another of the emerging talents in the DTM. He is now a consistent points scorer in the series, finishing out side the top ten just three times in 2012. He is also still learning and will be one to watch as he continues to improve, as there is plenty of reason to believe he could possibly take a podium or two in the not so distant future.

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Christain Vietoris (Mercedes)

The young German started his second DTM campaign in 2012, and he started it well. Fourth place at the first round in Hockenheim was a mighty result, but he wouldn’t taste similar success again all season. In fact, he scored points on just three other occasions in 2012. As a former Formula 3 Euro Series and GP2 race winner, he has talent. But he will need to show it more in the DTM more often than he did last year.

Motorsports / DTM: german touring cars championship 2012, 8. round at Oschersleben, Germany

Andy Priaulx (BMW)

The three-time World Touring Car Champion simply did not have any of the luck in 2012, and would have been hoping for far more than just the four average points finishes he scored in his debut season. But the Guernseyman is a fighter, and a very smart one at that. He knows how to win championships at the highest level, so he is very much capable of turning things around in 2013.

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Timo Scheider (Audi)

It’s hard to believe that just 3 years ago, Scheider took his second consecutive DTM crown, because now he seems to be struggling having not scored a single win since then. Like Priaulx, Timo never seems to have much luck. This was made obvious in 2012 at Zandvoort, when he took an impressive pole position only to get caught up in other people’s incidents in the race and retire from it early as a result. He has the ability to start challenging for wins again, so I hope for his sake that he manages it soon.

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Robert Wickens (Mercedes)

The 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 champion Wickens was labelled as having an impressive debut season in the DTM in 2012, despite scoring pints on just three occasions. The main reason for the praise seems to be his pace, which is not surprising bearing in mind his single-seater successes. It will be interesting to see if he can be more consistent in 2013.

#20, Robert Wickens (Muecke Motorsport, stern Mercedes AMG C-Coupe (2012))

Ralf Schumacher (Mercedes)

The six-time Formula One race winner is this year entering his sixth consecutive DTM season. It is surprising that given his Formula One success and DTM experience, he only has one DTM podium to his name, and no wins. He is in fact a bit of a burden sometimes, having caused a few incidents and picked up a few penalties in his tenour in the series. He need to pick things up this year though, as he will be expected to help Gary Paffett lead the young Mercedes team now that Jamie Green has left. It is hard seeing Schumacher’s DTM career lasting beyond 2013 if he does not give the rest of Mercedes’ young stars someone to look up to.

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Miguel Molina (Audi)

The Spaniard started his career in the DTM with two great seasons in 2010 and 2011, but his formed certainly dipped in 2012. Just two points finishes is more than disappointing for a driver who ended 2011 in such  great form. He has been trusted with a seat in 2013, but will need to get back to his best if he is wants to keep it in 2014.

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Joey Hand (BMW)

The American had a tough first season in the DTM, scoring points just twice. He is an experienced driver and showed good pace at times last year, so he will be hoping for a fresh start this year.

DTM Round 8, Oschersleben, Germany

Roberto Mehri (Mercedes)

21-year-old Spaniard Mehri earned the reputation as a top young single-seater driver  after winning the 2011 Formula 3 Euro Series title. However his debut DTM campaign was far from a success. He was quick, but inconsistent and erratic, and didn’t score a single point all season as a result. There will be a lot of pressure on him this year to show the DTM world how good he really is.

Mehri

The Rookies

Timo Glock (BMW)

Certainly the big news in the build up to the new season is the arrival of former Formula One podium finisher Timo Glock, following his departure from F1 team Marussia. He will certainly be expected to hit the ground running and he is definitely capable of doing so.

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Marco Wittmann (BMW)

The 23-year-old had the role of BMW’s test driver in 2012 and has been given one of the team’s extra two race seats in 2013. His role from last year will mean he has some experience with the car, which should put him in good stead for his debut season in the series.

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Daniel Juncadella (Mercedes)

The reigning Formula 3 Euro Series champion joins the Mercedes team in 2013,and will be hoping to make a better immediate impression than his compatriot Roberto Mehri. His credentials show he should be one to watch in the next few seasons.

juncadella

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DTM: Augusto Farfus – 2013 Title Contender?

If there’s one man whose performances towards the end of last season when unnoticed, it’s Augusto Farfus. While everyone’s eyes were on the Gary Paffett v Bruno Spengler, Mercedes v BMW title tussle, no one seemed to notice series rookie Farfus had taken poles in both of the last two races at Valencia and Hockenheim, converting them into a win and a third place respectively. Add to that the fact he had already taken an impressive debut podium finish at the Lausitzring earlier on in the season, and what you have a pretty remarkable maiden season in the cut-throat world of the DTM. Yes there were mistakes, he undoubtedly was the cause of the first corner incident at the Norsring which saw championship leader and pole sitter Paffett spun to the back of the back, but all in all it was a great inaugural DTM season for the 29-year-old.

Farfus Valencia Pic: Farfus took his maiden DTM pole and victory at the Valencia circuit

So the main question obviously is, can he be a title contender this season? My opinion is, simply, yes he can. The DTM is all about consistency, something the Brazilian definitely had managed to get his head around towards the end of the campaign and I have every faith that he will manage to continue that form into 2013. Also, remember that Farfus is a multiple winner in the WTCC, showing he knows how to cut it on a world stage.

farfus Pic: Farfus took a total of 15 victories in the WTCC

So in 2013, watch out for the mean, green Castrol machine.

F1 2013 Rookies – Giedo van der Garde

At the ripe old age of 27, Giedo van der Garde is , by the some way, the oldest of the 2013 F1 Rookies. And it’s fair to say, many see this is as a potential problem. They say he may have hit the big time too late in his career. They have a point, van der Garde is a full two years older than triple world champion Sebastian Vettel, and when you look at the fact that some of his rivals from his Formula 3/GP2 days, most notably Mercedes pairing Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, have been at the highest level for some years now.

van der garde

There is no doubting his ability, his 2008 Formula Renault 3.5 Series crown and multiple GP2 wins show he has a decent track record, but has he got what it takes to move the struggling Caterham team up the grid? What worries me is neither Heikki Kovalainen nor Vitaly Petrov managed to pull it off in the all green machine, two drivers who, like Giedo, made their name in GP2. So how can we be sure van der Garde will be any different?

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Personally, I hope the likeable Dutchman manages to make a name for himself in the big league. And with the unpredictability that makes Formula 1 so special, who knows, maybe he will be the man to give Caterham its first ever points finish.

F1: How Good is Pastor Maldonado?

If there was one thing that left Formula 1 fans scratching their heads at the end of the 2012 season, it was the dilemma surrounding 27 year old Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado. No one seems to be quite sure on how talented he actually is.

The fact that he took the 2010 GP2 title on nothing other than skill (everyone has the same car, so no advantage to be had there), winning an impressive six wins in the process, should answer that question. But, for some at least, there is still a question mark over whether or not he deserves his seat at the highest level. Not even the fact that he held off a multiple world (on his home soil, I might add) to take his maiden win in an inferior car is enough to silence his critics, of which there are many.

Spanish+F1+Grand+Prix+Fernando Alonso, Pastor Maldonado Pic: Maldonado holding off Fernando Alonso to take his maiden F1 victory in Spain

The main reason for having such a large number of doubters is his clumsiness’. He has made a bit of a name for himself as a crash magnet, someone who just cannot stop hitting things. It’s a shame this, because the guy has clear talent. He can be mega quick in qualifying, with a pole in Spain and second on the grid in Singapore showing that. The problem is as long as he continues to throw that speed out of the window by knocking into everybody, nobody will be able to see him for the top driver he evidently can be.

As a result, 2013 will be a big year for Pastor. If he can utilise his speed, use his head wisely and put together a consistent string of good results, maybe he will finally get a break from his critics.

BTCC 2013 – Return of a Champ

Perhaps the biggest news story around in the lead up to the 2013 BTCC season is the return of 2009 champion Colin Turkington, who hasn’t raced in the series since wrapping up that crown over 3 years ago.

The 30 year old Northern Irishman is one of the most popular drivers around, known for his clean, yet very effective, driving style and well spoken nature, and the news of his return was certainly a popular one among st the BTCC faithful, it even had BTCC trending on Twitter!

Turkington made his first appearance in the series back in 2002 in one of the Team Atomic Kitten MG’s, taking a remarkable podium in Race 1 at Croft. He went on to take a total of 19 wins in 8 seasons which saw in the MG ZS, Vauxhall Astra VXR and BMW 320si.

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Since taking the 2009 crown at Brands Hatch, Turkington has competed in both the WTCC (in which he took his maiden win in Japan in 2010 after Augusto Farus’ exclusion) and the STCC.

Colin returns with the team who took him to the title 3 years ago, Dick Bennetts’ West Surrey Racing squad. He will be racing one of the team’s brand new NGTC-spec BMW 1-series’.

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It’s fair to say Colin will be one to watch in 2013, the WSR squad are an experienced bunch and it won’t take long for them to get on top of the new machinery. Winning the title this year may prove to be a long shot, but if there’s one man who can spring a suprise, it’s Turks.

DTM: Edoardo Mortara – A Rising Star

For those who followed the 2012 DTM season, there were many results come the end of the campaign which may have suprised some. BMW taking the title in the first season of its come back probably topped the bill for many, but for me, it was the overall performance of the Playboy Audi A5 driver, Edoardo Mortara.

Motorsports / DTM 2012, 6. race at Nuerburgring,

To be fair, his performance shouldn’t be such a shock, not when you remember this guy took the 2010 Formula 3 Euro Series title, a series also won by the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean, Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg. His performances in the legendary Macau GP for Formula 3 cars isn’t too shabby either, having taken 3 wins on the famously tricky street circuit.

Mortara F3

Mortara switched to Tin Top Racing in 2011, driving an Audi A4 for Team Rosberg in the DTM, replacing Markus Winkelhock in the Playboy backed machine. His touring car career gradually started to gain momentum from there, and taking 5th place at the Norisring mid-season was the catalyst for a great run of results, including two consecutive podiums at Brands Hatch and Oschersleben.

Mortara 2011 Pic: Mortara on his way to his maiden podium at Brands Hatch

2012 was a big year in the DTM, with the introduction of the new regulations and the return of BMW. This didn’t seem to phase Mortara, however. The season started slowly for him,  scraping through to two low points finishes out of the first three races. But at round 4, Mortara showed he last none of his talent by storming to pole at the Austrian A1 Ring circuit, his first in the DTM. From there, he would fend off former champions Martin Tomczyk and Gary Paffett.

Motorsports / DTM 2012, 4. race at Red Bull Ring Pic: Edoardo heading Tomczyk and Paffett, on his way to his maiden DTM success.

Similar success would come at Zandvoort a couple of rounds afterwards. Having taken n impressive second to eventual champion Bruno Spengler at Nurburgring at the previous round, Mortara beat Audi team-mate Mike Rockenfeeler, who had been over-cautious in the changeable conditions, to take the honours. He was looking good for a second place at Valencia too, only for a driveshaft to fail and send into the gravel. That mechanical failure had far larger repercussions than first realised, as it meant Rockenfeller would finish ahead of Edoardo in the final standings and wrap up the campaign ad the highest placed Audi driver. It has to be said, that was a little harsh on the Italian. Especially when you consider he was the only Audi man to win a race all season, and remember this was a Audi line-up that included former multiple champions Timo Scheider and Mattias Ekstrom.

Thankfully, Edo’ will be returning for 2013, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be up there mounting a serious title challenge when we get to Hockenheim for the final round of the season.

V8 Supercars 2013 – A New Era

V8 Supercars is very much entering a new era in 2013, with the introduction of the COTF regulations. The idea behind these new specifications is simply a new control chassis, which makes the production of a new machine cheaper, in theory.

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Despite the changes, the new cars look remarkably similar to those of the previous regulations. In fact the Ford Falcon looks, to me at least, almost identical. Holden are replacing the venerable, but highly successful, VE Commodore with the recently released VF Commodore. Reigning team and drivers champions, Triple 8, have lost their famous Vodafone sponsorship, but have replaced it with a mega sponsorship deal from energy drink giants, Red Bull. The HRT run cars sport a new livery, too.

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The Ford Falcon, as I mentioned, is rather similar to last years car in terms of aesthetics. The most striking difference being the fantastic new Pepsi Max livery on the factory run FPR cars.

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Obviously, the big news for 2013 was that the refreshed regulations had attracted two new manufacturers. Nissan and Mercedes. Lets start with the former.

Nissan was the first of the two to announce its return to the series, with the brand new Altima. The move was the result of the Kelly Brothers’ (Rick & Todd) decision to leave Holden and run two new cars with own team. They have also signed Michael Caruso (from GRM) and James Moffat (from DJR) to race another two cars. The result is a strong, experienced line up in four, great looking, Nissans.

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Now, Mercedes. This was a rather late announcement, with Ford stalwarts Stone Brothers Racing deciding to seek pastures new. Mercedes was the chosen manufacturer, with the new E-Class the chosen model. The team have signed former Mercedes DTM driver Maro Engel to replace rising star Shane Van Gisbergen, who is heading to Holden squad Tekno Autosports. At first glance, it has to be said, the German saloon does make a mean looking V8 Supercar.

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It is impossible to say at this early stage who will have the car to beat, but it would be optimistic to think that the two newcomers will be up to speed straight away. But it goes without saying 2013 looks set to be a cracking year on the racing scene down under.