The DTM championship held its season-opener at the beautiful Portimão circuit in Portugal, in what is now the second season that the series is using GT3-spec race cars. That decision has been an astute one: The entry list has expanded to 29 cars to start this season, the most since 2000. There will be eight race weekends during the year, four in Germany and one each in Portugal, Italy, Belgium, and Austria, with two races held per weekend.
BMW has four M4 GT3 entries for the DTM season. Former two-time DTM champion Marco Wittmann drives the #11 car for Walkenhorst Motorsport, with teammate Esteban Muth in the #10 car. Schubert Motorsport will have Phillipp Eng in the #25 car and Sheldon van der Linde in #31. The BMWs are competing against entries from Audi, Mercedes, Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Porsche, which is new to the series for 2022.
Qualifying for Race One at Portimão showed how closely the DTM entries are matched. Mirko Bortolotti was on the pole in his Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, but the top eleven cars were within a half-second of each other, and all but five of the 29 entries were within a second. Sheldon van der Linde was the best BMW qualifier in seventh.
In the first race, Mercedes driver Lucas Auer took the win. He was followed on the podium by Luca Stolz in another Mercedes and Bortolotti in the Lamborghini. Sheldon van der Linde ended up in the same spot he qualified in, finishing seventh, as the best of the BMWs. Phillipp Eng finished ninth and Esteban Muth finished in fourteenth, while Marco Wittmann had to retire due to a loss of power.
Qualifying was even closer for Race Two, with Nico Müller on the pole in his Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II and the top fourteen cars within a half-second. Sheldon van der Linde was once again the best of the BMWs, qualifying fourth, just two-tenths off the pole, but he was given a three-place grid penalty before the race.
Marco Wittmann only managed seventh in qualifying but had a strong race to finish fourth, with van der Linde following in eighth and Muth in fourteenth. Phillipp Eng had to retire from Race Two after being hit by another car in Turn One. The Race Two win went to polesitter Nico Müller in the Audi, with Felipe Fraga in second in a Ferrari, and Bortolotti in the Lamborghini in third.
Wittmann was happy with a fourth-place finish in Race Two, but admitted that they still need to get a better understanding of the M4 GT3. “After a difficult start and the retirement in Saturday’s race, finishing fourth on Sunday was a nice way to round off the weekend,” he said. “For a while, I did hope to mount an attack on the podium, but in the end, we didn’t have the pace to reach the top three. Nonetheless, that is a result that we can build on, and those are valuable points, looking at the season as a whole. At the moment, it’s all about taking steps to improving our understanding of the new M4 GT3 in all conditions, and bringing it into the right window of performance during races and in qualifying. We are moving in the right direction.”
The next round of the DTM is at the Lausitzring in Germany on the weekend of May 20–22.—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy DTM, Gruppe C Photography.]