Audi Sport announced their driver lineup for DTM 2017 today.
It’s a mix of experience and new blood in the six Audi R5 DTM cars.
Mattias Ekström, Jamie Green, Nico Müller and Mike Rockenfeller all got another year with the German brand; in fact only Rockenfeller didn’t win a race in 2016. But the driver who has the nickname “Rocky” has got quite a lot of credit in the bank, after winning the DTM championship in 2013.
But there were two surprises that Audi pulled out of the hat. Super-sub anno 2016, Rene Rast, impressed so much in the three DTM races that he drove in, that he now secured a full season seat. In his only second DTM race ever, he managed to finished as an impressive 6th, ahead of many experienced DTM drivers.
The sixth and final driver is the now former FIA WEC driver, Le Mans winner and World Champion, Loic Duval. After Audi Sport shut their WEC programme, it left him without a drive, except for the FIA Formula E commitments that he has at Dragon Racing. And those commitments will now give him a bit of a choice early on in the DTM season. The DTM race at Lausitzring is held on the same day as the Formula E race in Paris. So we’ll have to see which one will get the top priority – like if he gets a great debut in DTM 14 days earlier before the date clash, and he maybe has lost all title hopes in Formula E, the arrow might point towards DTM. But only time will tell.
A similar situation can happen for Mattias Ekström, since he most likely will defend his FIA World Rallycross Championship. At the DTM season start he will have a double programme, since WorldRX is also going to Hockenheim on May 5th-7th.
Furthermore the confirmations of their DTM programmes, will most likely mean that we won’t see neither Rast nor Duval competing in FIA WEC or Le Mans 2017, since the opening race of DTM clashes with a very important race that serves as a preparation for Le Mans: Spa Francorchamps.
Ekström, Green, Rast and Duval were out testing earlier this month for the so-called Rookie test. At that time it all appeared as a “gift” from Audi Sport to Duval for his many years in WEC for the team, while Rast was there as reference driver for all the other rookies at Audi. But now we know a little more about why those two were chosen to be at the test.
Today’s announcement also means a goodbye to Adrien Tambay, Miguel Molina, Edoardo Mortara and Timo Scheider. No surprise with the last two names, since Mortara has been announced at DTM for Mercedes. Scheider said himself, that he hadn’t got a contract extension with Audi Sport. Instead he is looking towards FIA World Rallycross, where he really has been bitten by the bug, after finishing 4th at their season finale in Argentina. Furthermore he will keep an eye on his ADAC Formula 4 team.
With today’s announcement, we only need Mercedes-AMG to announce their drivers to complete the full DTM grid – and we’ll then be ready for the season start in May.