DTM 2011

The 2011 DTM season had a very ‘final act’ feel to it, with this year’s championship being the last (hopefully) of a two-make series, and the last of the current breed of cars before the all-new cars and rules kick into gear next year.

And as the series farewelled its champion Paul di Resta to the world of Formula 1, many expected that Gary Paffett, Mattias Ekström or Bruno Spengler would be the candidates to challenge for the championship crown in 2011. But Martin Tomczyk had other ideas…

After ten years in the championship where he has stood atop the podium just four times, Tomczyk claimed the crown, all the while seemingly handicapped with the older-spec Audi, after being given an inglorious demotion by the Audi top brass during the off-season.

Tomczyk claimed a popular championship title He found the little Phoenix team to his liking, and he quickly set about building himself an empire on his side of the garage. Benefiting from the championship’s switch to the all-new Hanook tyres, Tomczyk took advantage of the more level playing field it afforded him and delivered a classy performance all year long.

He was the only driver to finish in the points at every race, and only twice did he finish off the podium.

His sheer consistency had the rest of the field scrambling in his wake, and for some – hello, Gary Paffett – the season was a complete write-off.

Despite the closeness of the field – the entire 18-car line-up was generally covered by little more than a second in qualifying – this year’s racing proved generally processional, and there were few genuinely exciting races this year.

Hopefully, the introduction of the new cars and rules for 2012 – along with the return of BMW – will spice things up.

In the meantime, here’s our shortlist of the top-ten DTM performers of 2011…

 

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1. Martin Tomczyk
Martin Tomczyk   Martin Tomczyk Martin Tomczyk

Having been demoted an older-spec Audi during the off-season after a less-than-impressive 2010 season, it seemed that Martin Tomczyk was destined for the proverbial scrapheap.

But rather than allow that prediction to happen, Tomczyk set about changing everyone’s perception of him with a stellar season. Three wins and a points’ finish in every race made him a deserving champion, and he became the first in the series’ history to do so in an older-spec car.

He didn’t always have the outright pace in qualifying – he failed to make it into Q3 on three occasions – and that meant that he would need his racing nous to get him up to the front. Few in the field were more consistent opening-lap specialists than the German, and he regularly made ground when the starting lights went out.

With a comfortable championship lead after claiming two wins in the first five races, Tomczyk brought the title home with a run of four podium finishes in the second half of the season. Few would begrudge him a well-earned championship crown.

And then came the news that he was throwing his lot in with BMW as it set about making its long-awaited series return. With the #1 sticker on next year’s M3, it was a masterstroke for the Bavarian manufacturer.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS HOPES FOR 2012
Team: Team Phoenix / Audi A4 DTM 2008
C’ship: 1st Points: 72
Starts: 10 Poles: 1
Wins: 3 Podiums: 8
F/Laps: 1 Best Result: 1st (x3)
Making the jump to BMW is a major risk for Tomczyk, who will need to prove that his title win was no flash in the pan. The measure of his success will be how he helps to gel the entire project around him, but with five other competitive drivers vying for BMW love, he’s got a huge challenge on his hands.
OUR RATING: A

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2. Mattias Ekström
Mattias Ekström Mattias Ekström Mattias Ekström

A poor start to the 2011 season meant that the popular Swede was playing catch-up for the rest of the year, and his costly slip-ups in the opening races cost him a proper shot at a third championship crown.

He salvaged a hard-fought second-placed finish at the opening race at Hockenheim (despite his rear suspension failing on the last lap), but then he was hit by a splitter failure at Zandvoort and a slide into the pit wall while qualifying at Austria.

But once he got it together and regrouped, Ekström was almost untouchable. He thrashed all comers at the Nurburgring, and then followed this up with further wins at Oschersleben (by over 40 seconds!) and Valencia.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS HOPES FOR 2012
Team: Audi Sport Team Abt / Audi A4 DTM 2009
C’ship: 2nd Points: 52
Starts: 10 Poles: 2
Wins: 3 Podiums: 5
F/Laps: 1 Best Result: 1st (x3)
A darling of both Audi and Red Bull, Ekström will enjoy a long future with the works outfit for so long as he can maintain the form that has cvarried him to two DTM championship crowns already. If he can cut out the mistakes and deliver more of the late-season form we saw, then another title is his for the taking.
OUR RATING: A-

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3. Bruno Spengler
Bruno Spengler Bruno Spengler Bruno Spengler

Having thrown away his chance of a maiden championship crown last year when he blew a 17-point lead in the final races, Bruno Spengler was out to prove that he could, once and for all, be a DTM champion.

But the 2011 season brought more of the same. He started solidly with a win at the opening round at Hockenheim, and in the first half of the championship, he looked like the driver to beat.

But rumours wouldn’t go away that he was in BMW’s radar for the 2012 season, and that no doubt had a destabilising effect on his position at Mercedes.

Still in the hunt with three rounds to go, he suffered a mechanical failure at Oschersleben that knocked him out of the title hunt. His final two race outings were utterly anonymous – he claimed just two points – and that saw him overhauled in the standings by a red-hot Ekström.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS HOPES FOR 2012
Team: Mercedes-Benz Bank AMG / Mercedes C-Class 2009
C’ship: 3rd Points: 51
Starts: 10 Poles: 4
Wins: 2 Podiums: 5
F/Laps: 2 Best Result: 1st (x2)
The Canadian has been a feature of the Mercedes line-up, but years of continually playing the bridesmaid have seen him make the risky jump to BMW next year. The outfit will no doubt be raring to go, but the project will take a while to settle in the interim. It’ll be at least another year before he can realistically challenge for the title.
OUR RATING: B+

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4. Jamie Green
Jamie Green Jamie Green Jamie Green

Having shown himself to be a proven race-winner over the previous two years in older-spec machinery, Green was rightly promoted into a new-model C-Class for the 2011 season, taking over the cockpit vacated by the outgoing champion, Paul di Resta.

But despite proving himself to be a regular frontrunner, the Englishman couldn’t mount a championship challenge. An excellent qualifier (he made Q4 on six occasions), he regularly lost positions courtesy of poor race starts.

He threw away his shot at a win at the Lausitzring when Tomczyk sold him an absolute dummy to take the lead on the second lap, but he recovered well with a fine win at the season-ending race at Hockenheim.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS HOPES FOR 2012
Team: AMG Mercedes / Mercedes C-Class 2009
C’ship: 5th Points: 35
Starts: 10 Poles: 0
Wins: 1 Podiums: 2
F/Laps: 2 Best Result: 1st (x1)
There’s no doubt that Green is a hugely-talented driver who could well be a leading star at Mercedes, now that Bruno Spengler is off to BMW. But he also needs to ensure that he doesn’t just deliver in Saturday qualifying, when no points are on offer. Here’s hoping for a more consistent driver in 2012…
OUR RATING: B

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5. Timo Scheider
Timo Scheider Timo Scheider Timo Scheider

It was sheer consistency that saw the two-time DTM champion finish fourth in this year’s standings, but Tomczyk will be bitterly disappointed with his performance, this being his first winless season since 2007.

Scheider seemed to struggle more than most drivers with the switch to the Hanook tyres, and his qualifying performance suffered as a result.

His best finish came at the second round at the Lausitzring, where the Abt team put him on a long first stint to move him up the field after he had qualified midfield.

It was his one highlight in a troublesome season, and he cost himself solid points hauls with early race spins at Brands Hatch and Oschersleben.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS HOPES FOR 2012
Team: Audi Sport Team Abt / Audi A4 DTM 2009
C’ship: 4th Points: 36
Starts: 10 Poles: 0
Wins: 0 Podiums: 1
F/Laps: 2 Best Result: 2nd (LAU)
Scheider rarely demonstrated the form that propelled him to two DTM championship titles, and he’ll need to rediscover that form quickly if he wants to remain in Audi’s good books. But then again, look at what happened to Martin Tomczyk this year after he fell out of favour with the Audi bigwigs the year before…
OUR RATING: B

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6. Mike Rockenfeller
Mike Rockenfeller Mike Rockenfeller Mike Rockenfeller

A potentially promising maiden season in a current-spec car went begging when the popular German was injured in an enormous accident while competing in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

He missed a race while he recuperated, and he still looked off-form when he returned at the Norisring, where he qualified on the back row.

His season had started brightly with pole at Hockenheim, followed by a win just two weeks later at Zandvoort, helped by the slick pit work of his crew to get him ahead of early leader Spengler.

But that was about as bright as it got. He threw away second place to Spengler at the Nurburgring when he locked up on the penultimate lap, and spun off early in the rain at Brands Hatch after securing his maiden pole position.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS HOPES FOR 2012
Team: Audi Sport team Abt / Audi A4 DTM 2009
C’ship: 6th Points: 31
Starts: 9 Poles: 1
Wins: 1 Podiums: 2
F/Laps: 1 Best Result: 1st (ZAN)
Despite his denials to the contrary, that monster Le Mans accident has to have rattled the Audi driver. Hopefully he can rebuild during the off-season break and return a fitter and stronger competitor in 2012. His 2011 season certainly promised plenty, but it equally failed to deliver on as many counts…
OUR RATING: B

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7. Ralf Schumacher
Ralf Schumacher Ralf Schumacher Ralf Schumacher

Having given DTM fans plenty of reasons to ponder why he was still in a new-spec Mercedes after three undistinguished seasons in the DTM championship, Ralf Schumacher delivered his most competitive performance to-date in his fourth year in the series.

In the early rounds, it looked like he was one of the few who was able to make sense of Hanook’s new tyres, and he promptly claimed his maiden podium at the opening race, and followed this up with a second-placed finish at Austria.

But that was as good as it got, for the rest of the season saw the more-familiar inconsistencies in his performance, which varied from lukewarm to stone cold. That hot-headedness many had hoped had gone made a return with several clumsy clashes with other drivers, mixed with the occasional flashes of speed.

Rather like his F1 career, really…

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THE VITAL STATISTICS HOPES FOR 2012
Team: Salzgitter AMG Mercedes / Mercedes C-Class 2009
C’ship: =8th Points: 21
Starts: 10 Poles: 0
Wins: 0 Podiums: 2
F/Laps: 0 Best Result: 2nd (LAU)
While progress has clearly been made in some areas, Schumacher failed to deliver on the promise he’d shown early in the season. This has got to cause the Mercedes bigwigs plenty of concerns, but he’s also a huge name for the championship and a big drawcard for the crowds. He just needs to start putting it together…
OUR RATING: B-

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8. Edoardo Mortara
Edoardo Mortara Edoardo Mortara Edoardo Mortara

The young Italian gave every indication that he has a prosperous future in the DTM championship, comfortably outperforming his fellow rookie drivers.

Perhaps he was helped by being saddled with the older-spec Audi (clearly a good car, despite its age), but he also showed that his innate talent had plenty to do with it as well, with some sparkling performances whenever the track was wet: he qualified brilliantly in the rain at Spielberg, and then backed this up with two wet-weather podiums at Oschersleben and Brands Hatch.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS HOPES FOR 2012
Team: Audi Sport Team Rosberg / Audi A4 DTM 2008
C’ship: =8th Points: 21
Starts: 10 Poles: 0
Wins: 0 Podiums: 2
F/Laps: 0 Best Result: 3rd (x2)
Despite his generally impressive maiden season in the DTM championship, Mortara’s year was also blighted by some costly mistakes, and his form faded badly in the last two races, where he finished well down the order. He needs to eliminate these errors come 2012 if he wants to stay in the series long-term.
OUR RATING: C+

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9. Miguel Molina
 Miguel Molina Miguel Molina Miguel Molina

His sophomore season was one of two distinct halves for this likeable Spaniard.

Having finished tenth in last year’s standings, much was expected of him in 2011, and his season started poorly with a strong of point-less finishes.

It looked as though his head would be on the block by the end of the year, but his fortunes finally turned around when he claimed a surprise pole at Oschersleben, going on to finish eighth in the race.

At the next race, he took fifth in front of his home fans, and the season-ending race at Hockenheim proved that his Oschersleben pole was no fluke, when he repeated the effort. A maiden podium was a richly-deserved result, and a way to cap off the 2011 season.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS HOPES FOR 2011
Team: Audi Sport Team Abt Junior / Audi A4 DTM 2008
C’ship: 11th Points: 11
Starts: 10 Poles: 2
Wins: 0 Podiums: 1
F/Laps: 0 Best Result: 3rd (HOC II)
Molina recovered well after a slow start, and his strong finish to the season will hopefully be a good springboard for him as he heads into the 2012 championship season. But he’ll need to show more consistency over the course of the year, and keep out of trouble with his rivals…
OUR RATING: C

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10. Oliver Jarvis
Oliver Jarvis Oliver Jarvis Oliver Jarvis

A former winner of the McLaren / AUTOSPORT BRDC Award, Jarvis had a tough season that contained a few highs and a few lows as well.

He struggled through the first few races, before he put in a sparkling performance to claim a front-row start and a podium at Austria – he backed this up with fifth place at the next race at Lausitz.

But the rot set in once again, and he had two more finishes on the fringe of the points before he closed off the year with a pair of top-eight results.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS HOPES FOR 2011
Team: Audi Sport Team Abt / Audi A4 DTM 2009
C’ship: 10th Points: 14
Starts: 10 Poles: 0
Wins: 0 Podiums: 1
F/Laps: 0 Best Result: 3rd (AUT)
It was a year of change for Jarvis, who also had the challenge of working with a new engineer. More was expected of him in 2011 than he was able to deliver, and the Englishman will need to work on a few aspects of his driving in the off-season to be a better prospect, particularly his wet-weather form, which was surprisingly patchy.
OUR RATING: C

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[Images via DTM Media, LAT and Sutton Images]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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