Safe as houses: DEKRA performs the acceptance tests in the DTM

There is a good reason why the DTM is the most popular international touring car series in the world: nowhere else can spectators enjoy such high-class, technically-demanding and fair motorsport. In order to guarantee maximum safety among all the sporting action, DEKRA is responsible for putting the cars through an acceptance test each race weekend.

There is a good reason why the DTM is the most popular international touring car series in the world: nowhere else can spectators enjoy such high-class, technically-demanding and fair motorsport. In order to guarantee maximum safety among all the sporting action, DEKRA is responsible for putting the cars through an acceptance test each race weekend.

Commissioned by the German Motor Sport Association (DMSB), Europe's largest technical support organisation sends up to six specialists to the circuits. Alongside Wolfgang Dammert, DEKRA Automobil GmbH Motorsports Coordinator, and Volker Noeske, Head of the DEKRA Automobile Test Center (DATC), the on-site team always includes another three members of staff from the DATC. The DEKRA team also includes a DATC engine expert at some events. Working together with assistants from the respective organiser, the team ensures that the technical regulations in the DTM are adhered to every race weekend.

The process always starts on the Thursday before a race weekend. Even before the first touring cars roll out of the pit lane, all cars registered for a race must undergo a basic acceptance test. "The teams completely dismantle and then reassemble the cars after every race weekend. For this reason it is important to check all the safety-related aspects of the car, such as safety belts and fire extinguishers, ahead of every race weekend," says Dammert.

As an independent authority, the DEKRA team is also responsible for distributing the new tyres among the 22 DTM drivers on the Thursday. Tyre supplier Hankook forms 22 stacks of tyres, consisting of six or even new sets of tyres, which are made available to the drivers each race weekend. On top of this, each driver also brings three or four sets of tyres from the previous race weekend. As such, each driver has 40 slick tyres per weekend. In order to ensure that no preference can be given to any particular driver, the DEKRA team draws lots to determine which sets are allocated to which drivers.

The work continues on Friday: while the drivers complete their first laps out on the track, Dammert and Noeske's team really gets into gear. During the rollout and initial free practice, the DEKRA team performs random checks on the cars to ensure that the technical regulations are being adhered to. It also checks that the right engines have been installed in the DTM cars, as each team may only use a total of three engines per season in its two cars. The DEKRA specialists also determine whether the drivers are using exactly those tyres that they were allocated the previous day.

By Friday evening at the latest it is apparent that the DEKRA experts do not just test the DTM teams, but are available to provide help in the form of both advice and assistance. Should a team want to confirm the exact measurements of one of its cars, the DEKRA team is on hand with its three-dimensional index arm and is at the disposal of the racing teams for an entire hour.

The crucial phase of a DTM weekend begins on Saturday. Over the course of the second free practice on Saturday morning, all 22 cars are gradually weighed. Both the DEKRA inspectors and the racing teams welcome the rapid and accurate weighing of the cars. This provides the teams with illuminating feedback on whether they had correctly calculated the weight of the car and driver. With the support of numerous helpers, the DEKRA team performs a dry run for Qualifying, which is scheduled for the Saturday afternoon.

Qualifying: Every seconds counts

Every second counts in Qualifying: not only for the drivers, but also for the DEKRA inspectors. After the Saturday's third Qualifying session ("Q3"), the top ten cars in the standings are all weighed.

The DEKRA staff really has its hands full after Qualifying. The fastest four cars are taken into the acceptance test garage in the pit lane, where a fuel sample is taken and compared with the standard fuel stipulated in the series regulations. All four cars must also go back on the scales. In the meantime, a two-man team prepares the three-dimensional index arm. The data specialist reads comprehensive data from the DTM cars' recording systems and can also view video footage from Qualifying, which is recorded by the so-called "Incident Cam" mounted in the interior of the cars. The engine expert deals with the cars’ engine data, while the tyre specialist reads the data from readers operated by the technical assistants, who check all the used tyres.

As well as these routine checks, the technical delegate of the DMSB can, in close coordination with the technical commissioners at DEKRA, subject any car to an inspection. "Over the course of a race weekend, we are able and permitted to check everything in the technical regulations," explains Dammert. "We obviously don't always check everything. If we did, we would probably still be checking the cars from the season-opener in Hockenheim well into the summer break. For this reason, we focus on certain things in our checks: that can be the gearbox, differential, suspension arm, brakes, or air restrictor - so anything described in the regulations."

The inspection schedule looks similar after the race on the Sunday, whereby it is mandatory for the weight of the first three cars to be checked. "Data recordings also allow us to draw certain conclusions regarding compliance with regulations. Traction control, which is forbidden by the regulations, would most probably be evident in the recordings if it were advantageous," says Dammert. "The same applies to breaches of the rules out on the track. Sometimes the sports commissioners request to see data, as those involved in a controversial situation in the race sometimes make conflicting statements when asked about the incident. In this case, the data recordings can help to clarify the situation. Every so often our job appears more like detective work, but that is rather the exception."

The inspections performed by the DEKRA team are not limited to the "internal values" of the cars. Aerodynamics play a crucial role in these ultra-modern touring cars. The DEKRA inspectors are able to use a three-dimensional index arm with scanner to accurately check the body shell data from the four-wheeled powerhouses.

"Each of the three manufacturers submits all of the CAD data - the exact shape of the car's body shell - to the German Motor Sport Association," explains Dammert. "We import this data into our measurement system and then use it as a reference for the car currently being inspected. Should the data deviate, the first step is to discuss why that is the case. For example, the car may have been hit by a rival car during the race. It may also transpire that the car does not actually comply with the regulations."

The latter would be a case for the sports commissioners, who must then decide how to proceed with the car breaching regulations. Is there a threat of disqualification? Or will the driver in question be penalised at the next race? Dammert is happy that the DEKRA team need not concern itself with these issues: "In motorsport, the technical commissioner's task is restricted to establishing technical facts. In the case of a deviation from the regulations, a report is sent to the Race Director or sports commissioners - in the DTM, the technical delegate from the DMSB is responsible in these circumstances."


Formula 1
26. Nov 2017
Yas Marina Circui
Yas Island/Abu Dhabi
DTM images