The Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters is the world’s greatest tin-top race series, and after a twenty-year absence BMW is returning to the DTM in 2012 – it’s been tempted back by new rules and regulations that cut costs, improve safety, and make the racing closer and more exciting than ever. And Guernseyman Andy Priaulx is one of just six drivers who has a seat in the half dozen M3s that’ll battle Mercedes’ C Class Coupe DTM and Audi’s A5 DTM next year. We caught up with the three-time World Touring Car Champion to find out about his new 480bhp company car.
CAR: How competitive will BMW be?
Andy Priaulx: 'We won’t know until the first qualifying session of the first race exactly where we’re at. We’re not going to embarrass ourselves but we’ve got to respect Audi and Mercedes – they know the championship, they know the tyre, they know the formula and what makes a DTM car work. We’re not going to learn that information overnight. We’re going to have to do our testing in public but I’m very optimistic with the people we have onboard that we can perform really well.
'Our goal is to be competitive, and until we’re competitive we can’t think of winning races. That alone is a massive task, and the magnitude of this championship, with the approach of the other manufacturers, it’s going to be a real tough fight.'
How has the M3 DTM developed since it was unveiled in July 2011?
'BMW has always been professional in motor racing, but they have gone to an F1 operation overnight. I came back to my first test at the Lausitzring and was quite shocked by the approach, the structure and the magnitude of the test and what we’re doing in the DTM.
'The car has shown a lot of performance immediately and feels good, but we need that testing time to learn the tyres, learn the aero package and to really make the car good enough to win, It’s constantly evolving: what we rolled out two months ago is totally different now. We’re saving weight, the car is getting lighter and lighter and that makes it react differently. We’re trying different geometry and kinematic settings, exploring new things in every test. Our engineers our pushing the limit to find the best aero package and balance in the car before homologation. And March 2012 is not a long time. We’ve got to develop a whole car in that time.'
Does the M3 DTM differ much from the M3 GT you’ve been racing for the past few years?
'It’s very different. The DTM car has carbon brakes, so the temperatures need to be much higher and you have to hit the pedal a lot harder to slow the car down. But you can brake harder and later because of the downforce; there’s twice as much downforce as the GT car so high-speed corners are really quick.
'Then there’s the carbonfibre monocoque, the transaxle gearbox, and proper Formula-type suspension, and it’s lighter so it reacts quicker – it’s a lot more of a pure racing car than the GT.
'The DTM uses a much smaller restrictor than what we have in GT racing, but engine performance feels similar because the DTM car is lighter. But for me the biggest standout difference is the aero and mechanical grip.'
Do the M3 DTM and M3 GT require a different approach to race?
'You’ve got to drive the DTM car with a lot of energy. You’ve really got to drive the car hard to do a lap time so it’s physically more demanding than a GT car. You sit a lot lower, so visibility is not as good – you feel locked into a serious racing machine.
'The GT car is still great though: you’ve got 500bhp, probably more power than the DTM car because of the bigger restrictors, traction control, and the racing is really good. It’s not like the DTM car is much better to drive, it’s just a lot faster and it does everything better.'
BMW M3 DTM spec
Length: 4775mm (without rear wing)
Height: approx. 1,200mm (depending on set-up)
Chassis/Bodywork: CFRP monocoque with steel roll cage structure
Transmission: Sequential 6-speed gearbox
Engine type: V8
Max power output: approx. 480bhp (with air restrictor as per regulations)
Andy Priaulx’s bio
Born: 8 August 1973
1990: 1st place Motocross 250cc Championship (Channel Islands)
1995: 1st place RAC MSA British Hillclimb Championship
1999: 1st place Renault Spider Cup, 13 wins from pole
2004: European Touring Car Champion
2005: Winner of Nürburgring 24hrs
2005-2007: World Touring Car Champion
2008: Awarded an MBE
2011 1st place GT class 12h race Sebring (BMW M3 GT)
BMW M3 race highlights
1987-1992: 40 wins and over 150 podiums in the German Touring Car Championship
2005 and 2010: Winner of the Nürburgring 24hrs
2011: Winner of the GT drivers’, team and manufacturer’s championships in the American Le Mans Series
BMW M3 DTM teams
BMW Team RMG: New to the DTM
BMW Team RBM: 2004 European Touring Car Champion, and 2005-2007 World Touring Car Champions
BMW Team Schnitzer: Won BMW’s first ever DTM title with Roberto Ravaglia in 1989, and has taken four overall victories at the Nürburgring 24hrs, the latest in 2005 and 2010 with GTR and GT-spec M3s
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