The DTM stands tall among the world’s elite race series as much for its technical brilliance as for the spectacle it creates. After all, when the name entered the international lexicon, you can conclude it made its mark.

Forged in the late ’80s as the German touring car championship, it was one of the premier tin-top series. However, the organizers went their own way in 1993 when Group A was dropped in favor of Class 1, ushering in 2.5L V6 engines and introducing the awesome Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI. However, the series stuttered and disappeared in the late ’90s, only to re-emerge in 2000 with a new formula but only Mercedes, Audi and Opel competing. By 2006, Opel had withdrawn, and so it remained until BMW re-entered DTM this year, pitting the three premium German marques against one another with new technical regulations that allowed coupe body styles to be used and operating costs reduced.

With the Mercedes DTM budget rumored to rival its F1 expenditure, the manufacturers campaigned to reduce costs and a representative declared 2012 would be approximately half that of the previous year thanks to numerous new measures. For example, American BMW driver Joey Hand explained to us during a tour of his Samsung BMW M3 DTM, that his team was only allowed three sets of carbon brakes for the entire season. This obviously slashed costs but meant drivers go into brake preservation mode towards the end of each race, using a manually operated water spray to cool the components.

The sophisticated aerodynamics were curtailed for 2012, losing some of the smaller winglets to make them less sensitive while drafting. Although they still sprout carbon addenda from every panel, this is a simplified version of previous years and no enhancements can be made mid-season. Each car must use a spec splitter and rear wing, but ducting and winglets are unrestricted. As is air management around the side and rear, although the floor must be flat.

To avoid costly engine development for the other manufacturers, BMW agreed to construct its own 90˚ 4.0L V8 32v. These aren’t production based and carry 28mm inlet air restrictors yet still produce around 500hp on the same Aral 102-octane fuel used by everybody. Only three motors are allowed per car per season, and the specification has been frozen for three years to avoid development costs.

Up to 50 mechanical components were standardized throughout the series, including the same Hewland transmission used by all teams, as well as the 300/680-18 front and 320/710-18 rear Hankook Ventus tires. Then there are the aforementioned AP Racing carbon discs and pads, and every team uses Bosch electronics, but car-to-pit telemetry is now banned.

Minimum weight for a DTM car, including the driver, overalls and helmet, is 2425 lb (1100kg) and they must include the new carbon safety cell and rollcage stipulated by the rules. This houses the driver’s seat alongside the fuel cell, and is surrounded by six deformable crash elements.

The exhaust system runs alongside the safety cell, exiting just under the door and making the very wide sill sections incredibly hot after each race. Joey explained that exiting the car in a hurry is particularly difficult, given the tight cell and the heat, but that since his car burnt to the ground during a test at Lausitzring, drivers have practiced their exit procedure.

Another spec item is the steering wheel, and teams aren’t permitted to add extra buttons that might have nefarious uses. However, each driver can customize the rim, so Joey uses a cut-down aircraft-style yoke.

Despite all these measures, DTM is a major undertaking. Joey Hand’s pit crew, for example, came from Toyota’s F1 effort. We watched as the engine and transmission was warmed by a pre-determined computer program, its lubricants externally heated for the entire weekend when the car wasn’t running.

With Audi and Mercedes running four two-car teams, BMW had three and its complement of young drivers includes reigning DTM champion Martin Tomczyk, who defected from Audi, plus three-time World Touring Car champion Andy Priaulx. Hand is the only American in the entire series, driving for the RMG squad based near Nürburg. He’s clearly adapting well to his first season and has become a fan favorite for his unrehearsed comments.

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