Exclusive glimpses behind the scenes of DEKRA in the DTM
DEKRA Motorsport Coordinator, Wolfgang Dammert, and his team of six colleagues are responsible for safety in the DTM. In a DEKRA interview, Dammert not only discusses the effort involved at a DTM race, but also explains the differences between an event on home soil and a race held outside of Germany. He also reveals whether he also takes responsibility for the safety of his own cars.
What are your roles on a DTM weekend? When do you arrive at the venue, and when does your working day come to an end after the race on Sunday?
I usually travel to the event on Thursday, and return on the Monday. The DEKRA colleagues from Klettwitz are generally in action from Friday to Sunday. We might have to change the travel arrangements for the races outside of Germany. Our team has a wide range of different tasks to perform. For example, we perform the draw for and monitor the tyres allocated to each driver. We also check the sealing on the brakes and engines, measure the cars using our 3D measuring arm and 3D scanner, weigh the DTM cars, take fuel and tyre samples, and analyse recordings from the incident camera, as well as other data. But that is by no means the full extent of our job. We must also perform inspections as instructed by the sports commissar and race director, as well as other inspections should there be any suspicion of irregularities. It is always possible that we might spot something when analysing the data from the cars. That is when it gets particularly interesting for us.
How do you get all of your material to a DTM race?
Since 2014 almost all the equipment is transported using our DEKRA trailer. The trailer also acts as an office for the personnel performing the technical acceptance tests. This truck is then left with the manufacturer of the trailer between races.
Are there any other differences between a race in Hockenheim and a foreign race somewhere like Budapest or Moscow?
Budapest is a standard race, like Hockenheim and Spielberg. Apart from the fact that it took a little longer to get there, there are no other differences to the other races. Moscow is slightly different to the other events because of the very extensive customs procedures you have to go through. Also, the traffic conditions in and around Moscow are unlike those at the other circuits. It can take about 3 hours to travel the 70 kilometres to the hotel but this doesn’t take an effect on the technical regulations of the DTM. All in all, races in foreign countries are very special.
Do you often find yourselves having to improvise on a DTM race weekend, or does everything always run to plan?
We obviously plan anything we can influence as well as possible in advance. The experience gained over years of involvement in the DTM certainly helps. We check the equipment at the start of the season, and this is then repaired or replaced if necessary. We always have sufficient expendable items in our store on race weekends, and always have spares of the most important devices, such as our scales and notebooks. Despite this, you always come up against the odd surprise, which requires you to improvise and react flexibly. However, you could count the number of times we have to improvise each weekend on one hand.
How much space do you have in the pit lane and paddock at a race?
We have at least one garage at the start of the pit lane, in which we assemble our measuring plate and scales. At some circuits we have two garages, which allows us to weigh and measure cars simultaneously. We also have space for our DEKRA trailer in the paddock, usually located next to Parc fermé.
How many days per year do you spend travelling for DEKRA in the DTM?
I am on the road for at least 45 days over the course of the 10 events. On top of that come inspections like acceptance tests, verifications, homologations and valve clearance checks at the manufacturers and teams, as well as meetings of various DTM committees.
Do you also check the safety of your own car, or do you leave that to someone else?
I obviously ensure that my family’s cars are safe. The general inspection at DEKRA forms a very important part of this, but it is not the only part of the check.
Do DTM drivers ever approach you directly for a personal conversation?
That is rather seldom, as the drivers have an awful lot of appointments to keep at the racetrack, as well as doing their main job. You obviously bump into them in the garages, and every so often they have time for a little more than just a “hi, how are you doing”.
Are there any components on the DTM cars, which are only inspected once ahead of a season?
A so-called acceptance test is performed ahead of the season. The technical delegate and one of the DEKRA technical commissars visit a manufacturer to examine a car assembled for the new season. This acceptance test serves solely as a guide to what the manufacturer has changed since the previous year, within the technical regulations. Should there be any discrepancies, the manufacturer is then able to change them. However, this inspection is not a free pass, guaranteeing that all the parts on the car comply with the regulations. It would take several days to perform a complete acceptance test on such complex racing cars.
During the season, as well as the routine inspections, we primarily check certain components and modules, and analyse them in greater detail. It might be the gearbox on one occasion, then the brakes or chassis and shock absorbers the next. For this reason, we carry our own test rig with us in our trailer. Performance-related parts and components are obviously inspected more frequently.
To what extent does a technical acceptance test on a DTM car differ to that performed on a standard road-going car?
The first big thing they have in common is the safety aspect, in order to ensure that they are safe – whether on the road or the racetrack. However, even here there are differences: while the protective equipment for drivers in everyday traffic is all incorporated in the car, racing drivers also have their own personal protective equipment, namely their helmet, Head and Neck Support system, and flame-retardant clothing. In motorsport, you also have to consider a whole host of competition-related aspects, which are all documented in the technical regulations. You obviously don’t find those kind of regulations in everyday traffic. Two examples: when a standard shock absorber is specified in the DTM, you have to use precisely this part. In a private car, you can use a shock absorber from any manufacturer, which is suitable for your own particular model of car. While the fuel is prescribed in the DTM, you can use any manufacturer’s fuel for your own private car and, if you feel it necessary, you can also add additives from an accessory shop.
Which part on a DTM car requires the most attention during a safety check?
Every safety-related part on a car, whether used in everyday traffic or motorsport, demands the same degree of care and attention during an inspection. Only this way is it possible to guarantee that it is able to perform its protective function. The monocoque and antiroll features were the parts that require the most effort to inspect, in line with the safety concept introduced in the DTM in 2012. These two components were subjected to a whole series of static and dynamic tests at DEKRA, in order to offer the drivers the greatest possible degree of safety.