The DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, or German Touring Car Championship) opened its 2023 season at the Oschersleben circuit in Germany this past weekend. 2023 is the 39th year of DTM, but there were some significant changes since last season. The series still features GT3-spec cars, but the series is organized by ADAC for the first time, after years of being managed by the ITR. The ADAC also manages the ADAC GT Masters series and the Nürburgring 24-hour race in addition to several other race categories. Another big change this year is that the series switched to Pirelli tires from Michelin that they used last year, which is consistent with what was already being used in the ADAC GT Masters, as well as GT World Challenge Europe.
There are two BMW teams competing in DTM this year with the M4 GT3, competing against Audi, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes-AMG, and Porsche. Schubert Motorsport has defending champion Sheldon van der Linde driving the #1 M4 GT3 and is joined on the team by Rene Rast in the #33 M4 GT3. Rast was signed as a BMW driver last year after many years with Audi and was making his race debut with BMW at Oschersleben. The Project 1 team is new to DTM this season and has Marco Wittmann driving their #11 M4 GT3.
The competitiveness of the DTM series is evident when you look at the qualifying times, where the top sixteen cars were within a half-second of each other. Unfortunately for the BMW teams, they couldn’t find that extra few tenths to qualify well, which was especially important on the Oschersleben circuit where it’s difficult to pass. Rene Rast was the best BMW qualifier for the first race in eighth, and was just two-tenths off the pole time of the #94 Lamborghini. Rast also had the best finish of the BMW runners in race one, finishing in fifth. Both van der Linde and Wittmann had to retire. The first race was won by the #94 Lamborghini of Franck Perera.
Rast was also the best BMW qualifier for race two in eleventh, which was just three-tenths off the pole of the #91 Porsche, but his race ended early with wheel damage. Sheldon van der Linde moved up four spots from fifteenth to finish in eleventh, and Marco Wittmann finished in eighteenth after serving a penalty for a pit stop infringement. The second race was won by the #99 Porsche of Christian Engelhart. Porsche entries swept first through fourth place.
It was a disappointing weekend for the BMW teams, but they’re hoping to be more competitive in the next race at Zandvoort in Holland on the weekend of June 23rd-25th. “In racing terms, that was a very difficult weekend for us,” said van der Linde. “It started with qualifying, as we were just not good enough. And if you’re at the back at Oschersleben, things get pretty tough. We really do have to work on that, but I hope that other tracks on the race calendar are better suited to our BMW M4 GT3 than this circuit.” —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy ADAC Motorsport and BMW]