The launch of a new DTM campaign usually brings with it some sort of tweaking of the rulebook, and 2009 was no difference as organisers took the wraps off the series in Dusseldorf at the weekend.
Starting with a minor alteration to the race weekend schedule - with the 30-minute 'roll-out' session now taking place late on Friday afternoon, and Saturday afternoon qualifying following on two-and-a-half hours of free practice in the morning - the regulations also show changes to both the qualifying format and the weights required to be carried by the different years of car.
As of this season, the popular knock-out qualifying system will comprise four heats instead of the previous two. After the first 14 minutes, the fastest 14 drivers will move into a second round, with ten minutes to qualify for round three, After nine further minutes of action, the four fastest remaining drivers will compete for positions on the first two rows of the grid, but will have only one timed lap in which to post their best effort. Parc fermé regulations will also be in force between the third and fourth phases, with refuelling and tyre changes forbidden.
Also for 2009, the DTM commission has amended the minimum weights, so that the latest cars must weigh at least 1050kg, with 2008-spec machines at 1030kg and those from 2007 1010kg.
The changes were confirmed at the traditional unveiling in Dusseldorf, with drivers from both the Audi and Mercedes camps present to entertain a massive crowd. With less than four weeks to go before the start of the season at Hockenheim, all 19 drivers attended the first official press conference of the year, at the Meilenwerk, led by reigning champion Timo Scheider.
“I am really looking forward to this season because, for the first time, I am the one the others are trying to catch, instead of the other way round," the Audi man admitted, "Of course, I want to defend my title and make Audi the winning car for the third time in a row.”
Scheider will be joined in the latest-spec Audi A4 DTMs by double series champion Mattias Ekström, Le Mans record holder Tom Kristensen and Martin Tomczyk, while Ralf Schumacher transcends a disappointing debut season to land one of the four newest Mercedes C-Klasses alongside former champion Gary Paffett, Bruno Spengler and Paul di Resta
“Of course, I haven't become a perfect DTM driver overnight, but I want to score points," former F1 racewinner Schumacher commented, "It would be great if I can achieve a podium finish.“
The remainder of the line-up includes seven Audi drivers and three from Mercedes-Benz, with Germany providing the biggest contingent, but only by one from Britain. The field also contains two rookies in the shape of Kolles Audi duo Christian Bakkerud and Johannes Seidlitz, while Susie Stoddart and Katherine Legge provide a female threat for Mercedes and Audi respectively.
“Of course, defending the title is our goal - winning it for the third time is our dream,” Audi's Dr Wolfgang Ullrich admitted, to which Mercedes' Norbert Haug countered that “our C-Class will be fit for the battle for the title - I am looking forward to a great season opener at Hockenheim.”
From the traditional Hockenheim opener, the campaign wends its way through German venues Oschersleben, Lausitz, the Nürburgring and Norisring, as well as taking in overseas rounds at Zandvoort, Brands Hatch, the Circuit de Catalunya and, for the first time, at Dijon-Prenois, before returning to Hockenheim for the season-finale.