Pitstops proved to be a crucial component of the DTM last year, with Liam Lawson’s first victory at Monza thanks in large part to the superior work of the AF Corse crew in the pits.
It came on the heels of Red Bull’s partner team introducing a new pitstop philosophy to DTM, which immediately gave it an edge over its competitors. With this technique, the mechanic operating the wheel pistol first loosened the front wheel, but instead of waiting for a new tire to be fitted by another mechanic, he ran straight to the other end of the vehicle, completing the entire procedure on the rear. Then quickly returned to its original position, tightening the wheel in front.
Some rival teams were able to copy AF Corse-style stops by the second round of the championship, but the BMW, Lamborghini and Audi teams had to implement their traditional slow stops because their cars did not come with a locking ring that ensured the wheel nut on the front tire was not loosened before the The mechanic tightens them.
DTM banned this pitstop technology in 2022, but teams are already looking into other areas to gain an edge in pits. This is particularly useful, as unlike Class 1 cars, GT3 machines are not equipped with dedicated overtaking aids such as DRS or push-to-pass.
It now looks like the DTM teams can start competing for the best stopping mechanics, like in NASCAR on the other side of the Atlantic.
These professional mechanics earn about $80,000 annually, and their only job during a typical racing weekend is to change tires as quickly as possible. This immediately distinguishes them from those mechanics who have to perform a wide range of duties, including preparing and removing the garage.
“Last year we were still looking at how it all went,” Walkenhurst team boss Niclas Königbauer told Motorsport.com. “You have to make sure it’s not going in the direction of NASCAR now that people are just hired for stopping point who make a lot of money and are flown specifically for that. I hope it doesn’t, but I see the risk that everything will develop here bit by bit. “.
Gottfried Grasser, whose eponymous team has competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for many years, added: “That’s a separate job description there, and they pay much better than any normal mechanic. They come to the race site with a gun in their pocket. You don’t do anything else in weekend but tighten the wheel nuts.”
Thomas Brenning, Team KÜS Bernhard Porsche 911 GT3-R
Photography: Andreas Bell
With the Class 1 rule-set demise, the Motion Tracking Matrix reduced the number of mechanics allowed during layoffs from nine to six, putting more pressure on those involved to get things right.
Additionally, as manufacturers stop funding their operations entirely, teams are working with smaller crews and relying on self-employed workers where possible.
“The DTM used to be a very closed system because it was too heavy for the manufacturer,” said Konigbauer. “You didn’t work for one team one weekend and another the next. With GT3 teams, on the other hand, there are open borders.”
Haupt Racing (HRT) is one of the teams that has benefited from investing in freelance mechanics, which has allowed him to regularly perform some of the fastest stops in the DTM last year.
The outfit benefited from the services of Cedric Darimont and Pierre Emmanuel Cary, who previously won the Fastest Stopover Cup at the GT World Challenge Europe in 2017 and 18.
With the benefits of a superior crew already evident in the DTM, some teams might feel inclined to dig deeper into their pockets to get the smallest advantage over the rest of the field.
However, the problem is that the teams are already relying on partial factory support from the manufacturers to cover their current costs of €1m per car. The bidding war for the fastest network mechanic could be financially unsustainable and pose a major problem for the chain…