For much of the past few years, the Class One concept – the proposed technical unification of the GT500 class of the Autobacs Super GT Series with the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) championship – has been a key talking point of the future of premier-level sports & touring car racing, one that in some respects, has the potential to supercede both the Japanese and German championships.
Over the past two weeks, we have heard from both Gerhard Berger, racing legend and new head of DTM’s promoters ITR, as well as most recently from Masaaki Bandoh, chairman of Super GT promoters, the GT Association (GTA) – offering their latest updates on the progress of the Class One unification, and rumours of a proposed global Class One championship, with some surprising comments from both Berger and Bandoh!
With the focus of improving the product for its established audience, making it more attractive for fans and manufacturers, Berger said that Class One is not the focus for the DTM at this time.
When asked about the possibility of DTM adopting Class One regulations by 2019, Berger said, “Right now we are focused in our championship, in our own regulations. We know that FIA has the intention of doing something, but our focus is to strengthen our competition. If, in the future, we have a commercial and sporting opportunity that’s of interest for us, we will see what we do. But, right now, our focus is the present.”
“Stability, consistency, cost contention and a good show” are the focuses for Berger as the head of the DTM – a championship, much like Super GT, which benefits from top-class drivers and a strong manufacturer rivalry between the “Big Three” of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-AMG.
Some would probably interpret Berger’s comments as detrimental to the progress of future collaboration between Super GT and the DTM. However, in an interview with AUTOSPORTweb published on Friday, Bandoh views it quite differently.
“It’s really positive,” Bandoh said when asked about Berger’s comments from the previous week.
“Personally, I hope that a world championship can be established for Class One, and that Super GT and DTM could remain as regional championships. Ideally, the regional champions would be able to represent Super GT and DTM in a world championship. But first, our immediate objective is hosting an inter-series race, so we are preparing for the technical unification for that reason.”
“If the DTM were to become a world championship, it would have been difficult to hold an inter-series event, because it would have meant having a race between a world championship in DTM, and a regional championship in Super GT.”
“It is clear that the ITR wants to maintain DTM as a regional championship, and Mr. Berger’s recent comments confirm this. But first, I would like the for the DTM to switch to the two-litre, direct injection turbo engine, adjust some other parts of their technical regulations, and then we can prepare for a race together in 2019.”
In addition, AUTOSPORTweb confirms that the three DTM manufacturers have agreed in principle to switch from their current 4.4 litre V8 engine to the two-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The steering committee, comprised of technical representatives from Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes, will also continue to negotiate and finalize plans for a unified race between Super GT and DTM.
Along with the engine formula, DTM’s control tyre formula and use of the drag reduction system (DRS) serve as challenges to overcome for the two sides to host an all-star race in the near future.
It’s been a long saga with no estimated time of arrival to the goal – but at the very least, both Berger and Bandoh are confident in the future of their respective series, and Bandoh seems confident that the two sides can come together for a race in the near future after years of planning.
Thanks to TenTenths Motorsport Forum community member Japanese Samurai for translations from AUTOSPORTweb’s interview with Masaaki Bandoh.