The German Touring Car championship or Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, DTM, in short, is arguably the world’s most advanced touring car championship. The series features the three German heavyweights i.e. Audi, BMW and Mercedes all run highly modified versions of their latest offerings. DTM generally sees some of the best drivers on the planet, for example, ex-Formula One drivers such as Timo Glock and former legends such as Mika Hakkinen, Jean Alesi and Ralf Schumacher have been part of the German racing series. Though the series primarily takes place in Germany it also runs rounds in Hungary, Austria, Russia and Holland and has also run races in the U.K., Turkey and China in the past.
The only real negative to the series is the cost of building and running the cars. While the DTM machines may look like your everyday saloon cars kitted out with side skirts and wings, they are far from it. In fact, these cars are silhouettes that have more in common with a Formula 3 car than a touring car. This is all fine when a manufacturer is paying the bills, but what happens when one of them decide to go elsewhere?
Earlier this year Mercedes rocked the motorsport world when it announced it would be pulling the plug on its DTM division in favour of focusing its resources on Formula E at the end of the 2018 season. This meant the series would be down to two manufacturers, neither in a position to extend their support to run more cars in order to fill the void left by Mercedes. DTM fans were left in limbo, as no one was sure what the future of the championship would hold.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Japanese Touring Car championship otherwise know as Super GT follows a model similar to DTM. Realistically, the Super GT is the only other Touring Car championship in the world that could rival DTM in terms of pure performance (at least with its GT500 classification) and has been thriving with its own big three manufacturers – Toyota/Lexus, Honda and Nissan… all battling it out for supremacy with heavily modified versions of their latest offerings. In a scenario where clearly the focus from petrol-powered motorsport is slowly but surely shifting, the need arises to collaborate globally to create the ultimate Touring Car championship.
In fact, since 2010 organizers of both DTM and Super GT have been trying to come to an agreement regarding following a single set of technical regulations that could in-turn benefit both championships simultaneously. They have been in fact, mulling over merging to form a single “Class One” regulation that would not only regulate costs but also improve everyone’s geographic reach. The Class One proposal, however, has been delayed for a variety of reasons for more than half a decade now. This, however, is close to being resolved.
With Mercedes’ decision to pull out of DTM, organizers of both the championships may have little option but to quickly resolve their internal issues and come together under Class One regulations. The proposed move took a giant step forward when at the final round of the DTM championship in Hockenheim, Lexus and Nissan brought their racecars over for a series of test runs. Though the times were not made official the gesture no doubt shows that a resolution may be close and that in 2019, we could soon potentially see a head-to-head fight between Audi, BMW, Honda, Nissan and Toyota/Lexus across Europe and Asia. If this goes through, we are sure to have exciting times ahead.
While every region has their own popular Touring Car series, The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) in the United Kingdom and Super Cars in Australia, there hasn’t been a single series where Touring Car racing would have been truly international, and for the masses. This is perhaps down to the fact that most manufacturer could consider competitor brands from other parts of the world as a treat to their local area of influence, or it could be the logistical challenges that are involved for teams when competing in a truly international season of motorsport.
Though we do have the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), the problem with the championship is that the regulations inspire no significant interest from fans and the series has always been dominated by a single manufacturer for extended periods of time. The new TCR International Series has been gaining traction in recent times but this is seen more as cost-effective racing than anything else. All these factors together point to the fact that a joint venture between the DTM and Super GT could have monster potential in terms of marketing appeal as well as forming a proper international touring car championship, given the fact that at one point in time NASCAR holdings too were part of the Class One discussion and were quite keen on bringing DTM to America. Maybe, just maybe, we could also see Chevrolet and Dodge join the action and have a truly global touring car championship that may one day rival Formula One.