Friday, December 20, 2013

DTM: Audi teams 2013 season review

By Johan Laubscher

The 2013 DTM proved to be another exciting season. It was also a very good year for Audi, after having bounced back from a difficult 2012 to take two titles by the end of 2013.

Phoenix Racing had a terrific year securing the teams' title as Audi Sport Team Phoenix and their driver, Mike Rockenfeller, was crowned as the 2013 DTM drivers' champion.

The season review has been compiled from the 2013 Audi Motorsport Blog Weekend Round Up posts. Each round has been added as was seen in the individual Weekend Round Up posts during 2013, which can be accessed via the links throughout the review below:

Round 1: Hockenheim

The DTM season got underway at Hockenheim. The series has had a number of changes, most notably the new DRS and option tires. The Audi teams performed well during the sessions and pole position went to Timo Scheider in his RS 5 DTM, in what was a chaotic and weather affected qualifying session. The race saw Timo lead at the start, but many issues and retirements dropped the Audis down the field. Ultimately the top placed Audi was Scheider who finished in sixth, after a very good recovery drive.

Round 2: Brands Hatch

The second round of the DTM took place in Britain this weekend, hosted at Brands Hatch (Indy configuration). The Audi teams arrived wanting to put the Hockenheim round behind them. They showed good pace in practice. Mike Rockenfeller was on point all weekend and set the fastest Audi time in qualifying, taking second overall. Martin Tomczyk's BMW, the original pole sitter, was found to be underweight and Rocky was promoted to pole. He took full advantage of the pole position and dominated the race with a flag to flag victory performance, also taking the lead in the championship points standings. Three Audis finished within the top ten.

Round 3: Red Bull Ring

The DTM arrived in Austria for the third round of the German series. Audi was full of confidence following their victory at Brands Hatch last time out, when Mike Rockenfeller took the race win and the championship lead. The Audi RS 5 DTM cars performed well in free practice with five cars inside the top ten. Edoardo Mortara, the winner at this track last year, was the only Audi in the top four shootout and he qualified in third. Four Audis qualified within the top ten. The race itself saw Mortara gaining second place at the start but he unfortunately lost the place, and later fell back after a puncture caused by contact. Mike Rockenfeller recovered very well and finished fourth, he had started in thirteenth place after a penalty. Mattias Ekström followed Rocky home, finishing in sixth place, the only two Audi drivers within the top ten. Rocky remains the leading Audi driver in the points, he is in second place just twelve points behind the leader.

Round 4: Lausitzring

Round four of the DTM was hosted at the Lausitzring. The weekend got off to a good start for the Audi teams as Jamie Green topped free practice and lead home six Audis within the top ten. Qualifying was slightly different as only four Audis made it into the top ten, but Green was again the top Audi, placing in third. The race saw Green maintaining third behind the leading Mercedes-Benz whilst some of the Audis pitted early for tires. Mike Rockenfeller had a brilliant strategy and managed to leapfrog his way to second and challenged for the win. Ultimately Rocky finished second, collecting valuable points. A total of four Audis finished within the top ten. This result has elevated Rocky in the points, as he is now tied for the championship lead on 59 points. Jamie Green continued his good form and finished in fifth and behind him Mattias Ekström was very lively and almost took seventh from Spengler at the line.

Round 5: Norisring

The DTM was at the Norisring this weekend, round five of the German Championship. The regular eight Audi RS 5 DTM cars were present, fielded by ABT, Rosberg and Phoenix. Seven of the eight Audi RS 5 DTM cars made it into the top ten during the Saturday morning practice session. Qualifying saw three Audis within the top ten, lead by Edoardo Mortara in fourth place. The race itself was one full of surprises. Mortara was able to hold his ground and move up to third with Ekström and Rockenfeller also moving up well. Clever pit-stop strategies allowed an Audi 1-2 at the front with Mortara leading Ekström. Rockenfeller had completed both of his pit-stops early and went for the long run op option tires. Ekström managed to overtake Mortara for the lead, whilst Rocky had moved up well into the top ten. Mortara unfortunately retired due to a late race altercation with Gary Paffett, and Rocky began to fall back slowly as his option tires started to wear off. In the end Mattias Ekström came home to win Audi's first victory at the Norisring since 2002. Rocky finished in fifth place, and remains the championship points leader. 

Update 1: Ekström was disqualified and excluded from the race results later on Sunday evening. The disqualification was for an infringement of Parc Ferme rules, regarding water being poured into his suit pockets in Parc Ferme. The official DTM press release about the disqualification can be seen HERE, and Audi's announcement that they will appeal the ruling can be seen HERE.

Taken from Weekend Round Up - Audi Motorsport Blog (13-14/07/2013)

Update 2: Mattias Ekström lost the Norisring DTM victory on Tuesday, 30 July. His exclusion from the race was upheld following the DMSB appeal court ruling. The ruling also stated that there would be no race winner at the Norisring, thus meaning that Ekström remains excluded and Robert Wickens remains the second place finisher. The official statement from Audi Sport following the ruling: “In the spirit of sport, we respect the decision by the DMSB appeal court.”

Round 6: Moscow Raceway

Round six of the DTM headed to new territory in Russia this weekend. The event at Moscow Raceway proved to be very successful for the Audi teams. Saturday morning free practice saw six Audis within the top ten. Qualifying was highlighted by a 1-2 for Audi, Mike Rockenfeller on pole and Mattias Ekström in second. From the start of the race Rockenfeller and Ekström lead from the front. Behind them there was misfortune for Molina and Mortara who both retired from the event. Ekström got passed Rocky during the pit stops, but their positions were swapped around by the finish. Rockenfeller came home to win again in 2013, and in doing so he extended his championship points lead considerably. Ekström finished second ahead of Tambay in fourth and Green in sixth, making it four Audis within the top six. 

Round 7: Nürburgring

The German DTM Championship was hosted at the Nürburgring short circuit for round seven of the championship this weekend. Free practice saw seven Audis within the top eight. Two Audis made it through to the top four in qualifying, with Molina placing third on the grid and Mortara in fourth, three Audis inside of the top ten. Championship points leader Mike Rockenfeller qualified in eleventh, right behind his rival Bruno Spengler. The race got underway with rain on the warm up lap, which caused mayhem at the start. Many of the Audis spun during the first two corners, including Mike Rockenfeller who went off in avoidance. Phoenix Racing then pitted Rocky early for wet tires, before the pitstop window opened. The move resulted in Rocky leading most of the race. It was a great recovery drive as he lead at the front, but the extra pitstop dropped him to fourth place, the highest Audi finisher. He was followed by three more Audis inside of the top ten: Adrien Tambay in sixth, Miguel Molina in eighth and Jamie Green in ninth. Mike Rockenfeller has defended his championship lead, he is now thirty-five points clear in first place.

Round 8: Oschersleben

The DTM was at Oschersleben this weekend, round eight of the season. Six Audi RS 5 DTM cars made it into the top ten during the Saturday morning free practice session. The strong pace continued into qualifying, as again six Audi cars made it into the top ten, with Jamie Green and Mike Rockenfeller making it into the top four shootout. Rocky took fourth place and Jamie Green took second. BMW’s Bruno Spengler, who had originally taken pole position, was later dropped five places due to a technical infringement, thus promoting Green to pole position and Rocky to third. Green dropped to second by the first corner, slotting in behind Farfus's BMW. Rocky also dropped to fourth behind a fast starting Spengler. An early pitstop and fast laptimes saw Rocky progressing to second place, right behind Farfus. The lead battle continued for the rest of the race, with Rocky ultimately finishing in second, ahead of Jamie Green in third. It turned out to be a terrific race for Audi, as all eight of the Audi RS 5 DTM cars finished within the top ten. Mike Rockenfeller remains the clear leader in the championship title chase.

Round 9: Zandvoort

The ninth and penultimate DTM round headed to Zandvoort in the Netherlands. Mike Rockenfeller arrived at Zandvoort with the distinct possibility of clinching the DTM title with one round to spare. The Audi squad got the weekend off to a good start during free practice on Saturday. Five Audis placed within the top ten that morning. Qualifying saw Mike Rockenfeller taking third on the grid ahead of Timo Scheider in fourth, leading six Audis inside of the top ten. The race began with Rocky making a massively good start and challenging for second, a place which he managed to take during the opening laps. A battle ensued between Rocky and Augusto Farfus, with Audi teammates backing up Rocky from behind. Rocky maintained second place during the race with Timo Scheider running in third. A late-race safety car period bunched up the field, leaving just a two lap dash to the flag. The positions at the front remained the same as Farfus won in his BMW and Rocky finished second, which was enough to clinch the title for Mike Rockenfeller. Rocky, the new DTM champion, lead home six Audis within the top ten. These latest results have elevated Audi into the lead of the manufacture’s championship and Audi Sport Team Phoenix into the lead of the team’s championship.

Round 10: Hockenheim

Hockenheim was the scene for round ten of the 2013 DTM season, the season finale. Audi arrived at the finale as the leader in all of the championship points standings. Mike Rockenfeller clinched the drivers’ title at the previous round, Audi was leading the manufacturers’ standings and Phoenix Racing was ahead in the teams’ standings. The weekend got off to a good start when five Audi RS 5 DTM cars made it into the top ten during the Saturday morning free practice session. Qualifying turned out to be more difficult as none of the Audis made it into the all-BMW top four shootout. Miguel Molina was the highest placed Audi in fifth, leading four Audis within the top ten. The finale got underway on Sunday afternoon in wet conditions. It was a very busy race with a lot of on track action. The BMWs led from the front with the Audis progressing through the middle of the top ten. Many of the Audi drivers filtered in and out of the top ten during the race. Mattias Ekström quickly became the leading Audi as he was hunting down the leaders, but he was hit from behind and lost time. The order shuffled continuously during the closing minutes with many late pitstops. When the race finally came to a close it was a BMW victory, as two Audis finished within the top ten: Ekström in fourth and Molina in fifth. The remaining five Audi RS 5 DTM cars finished together in positions twelve though sixteen, as Green led Scheider, Tambay, Mortara and Rockenfeller. Unfortunately Filipe Albuquerque retired during the opening stages. Audi Sport Team Phoenix was crowned as the teams’ champions with a total of 161 points. Audi just lost the manufacturers’ championship to BMW, finishing second by a mere twenty-two points. This concluded the 2013 DTM season which saw Audi taking the drivers’ title with Mike Rockenfeller and the teams’ title with Phoenix Racing.