MOTORSPORT

DTM season-opener at Portimao – the curtain has been raised

South Africa’s golden boys, the vd Linde brothers, get into the thick of the action.

TopGear Reporter
May 4, 2022
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Something can be said about the quality of a racing grid when there are 14 international FIA titles among the 29-car field from six different manufacturers, representing 15 different nationalities. Also, the biggest number of entries DTM has ever had. 

If DTM is to be sustainable it needs to learn a thing from F1 and make it a truly global sport – this seems to be happening. The field, however, missed Liam Lawson as he focuses his efforts on F2 duties as well Nick Cassidy who was on Formula E duties in Monaco, leaving the Ferrari keys to rally legend Sebastien Loeb. Three-time DTM champion, Rene Rast, joins ABT Sportsline alongside Kelvin van der Linde and Ricardo Feller. David Schumacher, son of Ralph Schumacher made his DTM debut, following in the footsteps of his father.

Qualifying for round one and another hat tip to the quality and Balance of Performance rules in DTM is the fact that, in qualifying, the top 20 were spread by not even a single second. Read that sentence again. Mirko Bortolotti grabbed pole position looking to put his Hurucan EVO3 out in front to grab the first-ever race win for Lamborghini’s GRT Grasser Racing.

Race one was drama-packed with plenty of DTM-like door-to-door action. The series attempted a live position tracker for viewers but it just left one dizzy with the number of position changes in the opening part of the race. I’d prefer the sector-by-sector update…

Newcomer and Le Mans winner, Nicki Thiim found his way up to the fourth place. Bortolotti was however caught out on the restart, dropping the Italian down to fourth. I can imagine some choice words being hurled over the radio. Lucas Auer grabbed first place followed by Luca Stolz and Bortolotti. MVP shoutout to Local boy Kelvin vd Linde who stormed the field from P17 to finish P4, an incredible feat for the South African. Sheldon vd Linde pulled through for an impressive first outing in the new BMW M4 GT3, finishing P7.

An interesting topic of conversation that has been brewing before the season's start centred around the pitstop strategy as the series rules changed from having a nine-strong crew to just six. The risk is that certain teams might float in specialist crew to reduce the time for a pitstop and in a series where every split-second count and average pit stop times range between eight and 10 seconds, this could be an unfair advantage. A prime example in 2021: AF Corsa pitting Alex Albon in just 6.9 seconds, using the might of the RedBull team. How do you compete with that?

Race two – Nico Muller grabbed pole, followed by Bortolotti and Felipe Fraga in third. With all the chaos that ensued at the back of the pack with several incidents, DTM proves that if you’re at the back of the mid-pack, it’s a lottery as to whether you’re making it out clean to the end of the race. Nico Muller grabbed first place followed by Bortolotti and Felipe Fraga with Sheldon van der Linde claiming fourth. It’s looking like a promising year for Sheldon. Kelvin snatched the eighth position. 

Although both races served up a healthy dose of overtaking and fighting, as blood-lusting spectators, we always want more of it but there’s an overarching question around the mid-section of both races that lacked the type of excitement set by the touring cars of yesteryear that leaves room for improvement with the new GT cars. Is an hour too long and should they perhaps look at shortening the race distance but keep the pit stop? 

Another point of concern is the high attrition rate experienced. Seven cars were out in race one and four in race two. For a series that has always been the benchmark for a high finishing rate, this is something to investigate. Are these GT cars too complicated for what was once a saloon car championship? One can speculate…

With the series growing in popularity globally, and a reminder that DTM once paid a visit to Kyalami back in 1990 and 1991 – the first-ever race that featured ABS – could we see DTM once again grace South African soil? I certainly hope so but given the global shipping and air freight crisis, we remain hopeful. Then again, stranger things have happened. The next round will be at the Lausitz Eurospeedway on the 20-22 of May. Let’s hope the van der Linde brothers can turn their good start into something even better!  

Words: Brent Van Der Schyff

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