* Technology largely frozen after homologation on March 1 * Preparation of race cars has begun
One date in particular influenced the work of the engineers and technicians at Audi Sport in a major way over the past few months: the homologation of the new Audi A5 DTM on March 1.
Exactly 59 days before the racing debut at the Hockenheimring on April 29 the rule now is "rien ne va plus." As of the electronic transmission of all relevant design drawings, CAD data, descriptions and photographs to Deutscher Motor Sport Bund (DMSB) for approval ("homologation") the key technical areas of the new DTM vehicles - including aerodynamics - have been frozen. This means that the concept Audi is using to start the "title defense" project in the 2012 DTM has been finalized.
Like its two competitors, Audi had been testing the final version of the new A5 DTM in top-secret conditions excluding the general public over the past few weeks. "More than ever before, even the minutest detail will count this year in the DTM," says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "Obviously, you want to keep the things you've worked out over the past few months under wraps for as long as possible."The new DTM regulations prescribe more shared parts than in the past and impose further restrictions on aerodynamics as well. The Audi engineers are convinced nonetheless that they have come up with interesting and innovative detailed solutions again in this area in which Audi has consistently been a trendsetter over the past few years. And these solutions were covered by so-called "bubble wrap" (camouflage) of the type their colleagues in production pre-development use to disguise their secret prototypes.
This hide-and-seek game is over now. When comparing the first A5 DTM as it was unveiled to the world's public at the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) in September 2011 with the vehicle that has just been homologated the changes that have been made are obvious at first glance. The single-frame radiator grille and the air intakes on the sides of the front spoiler in combination with the characteristic LED daytime running lights of the production A5 give the A5 DTM an extremely dynamic look. The three-dimensional aerodynamics components in the lower third of the vehicle flanks are small works of technological art. And the rear section as well exhibits innovative ideas.
Audi factory driver Filipe Albuquerque was the first to have the chance of getting an idea of the overall package. At the end of February, the Portuguese had the honor of completing the first test kilometers at the wheel of the A5 DTM with chassis number 003 that both in terms of weight and aerodynamics reflected the (near-) final version. "I expected quite a bit of it," said the winner of the 2010 Race of Champions at which he defeated Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel among others. "But I wouldn't have thought that the step would be so big. Particularly in fast turns the new A5 DTM handles like a formula car. Truly fascinating! I think I'd have to readjust quite a bit if I switched back to the old A4 DTM ..."The homologation on March 1 also gave the starting signal to the three Audi factory teams that are now beginning to prepare the race cars at Audi Sport in Ingolstadt. Four of the new A5 DTM vehicles can be seen at the official track tests in Valencia (Spain) from March 20 to 22 - then sporting the design of the various sponsoring partners as well.
Yet the work of the technical staff has by no means come to a halt. The remaining days before the Hockenheim season opener will primarily be dedicated to fine-tuning work and efforts to maximize the potential of A5 DTM in combination with the new Hankook tires.