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DTM Hockenheim

"No silly games" - DTM drivers hope team orders don't play any role in finale

DTM drivers hope teams and manufacturers will refrain from artificially manipulating the results of this weekend’s Hockenheim finale to keep the competition fair.

Mirko Bortolotti, SSR Performance Lamborghini Huracán EVO GT3

The three drivers that have a realistic shot at the 2023 DTM title all represent different manufacturers, raising the possibility of external interference in the final two races on Saturday and Sunday.

Team orders have been banned in the DTM since the controversial events of the 2021 Norisring finale, but there is a general understanding that it is impossible to detect every violation.

Factory Lamborghini driver Mirko Bortolotti, who trails Porsche’s Thomas Preining by 10 points in the standings, wants two clean races to decide the winner of this year's title fight.

"I hope it plays out fairly and there are no silly games being played,” he said. “Hopefully it plays out between us and not with other people trying to do anything clever that won't end up being clever."

Bortolotti made it clear that he is not relying on other drivers in his SSR Performance team, or the wider Lamborghini contingent that includes the Grasser squad, to become a DTM champion for the first time.

"No, you can't [use help from others],"he said. "We're on our own and we have to fight for ourselves."

Manthey EMA driver Preining likewise called for a fair contest at Hockenheim after an impressive sophomore campaign in which he cemented his place as a top GT driver in Porsche’s factory roster.

"Plan A is not to rely on anything like that and there's nothing planned in that direction either,” he said of team orders.

“It would be most beautiful and best if everything runs cleanly and it's really handled in a sporting way and clarified on the track, and not somewhere at the green table or by teammates."

Podium: Mirko Bortolotti, SSR Performance, Thomas Preining, Manthey EMA

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Podium: Mirko Bortolotti, SSR Performance, Thomas Preining, Manthey EMA

Abt Audi’s Ricardo Feller, who has a 31-point deficit to overcome in the standings, is hoping for some help from team-mate Kelvin van der Linde, but within the scope of the regulations.

"I hope my team-mate will be as strong as he was in the last few race weekends and be up front because then he can take big points away from the two guys,” he said.

“That would be good for me because I need to catch up. But otherwise there are no resources there.”

The ADAC is very strict about team orders in the DTM, with article 20.2 of the regulations stating that: "Agreements between manufacturers or applicants (teams) and drivers, which provide that the manufacturer or applicant may issue direct or indirect instructions to the driver for his behavior during a qualifying session or scoring run, which restrict the driver in the sporting competition, are prohibited.

"In the event of violations, a fine of 250,000 euros may be imposed on the manufacturer, applicant and/or driver."

While any obvious violations will be seriously investigated, such as the one that saw Maximilian Gotz clinch the 2021 title after Mercedes orchestrated a swap between its drivers at the Norisring, it may be impossible to prove that a team or a manufacturer passed instructions to their drivers in certain cases.

While any agreement to manipulate the result is strictly prohibited, in theory, a driver can take the foot off themselves and escape sanctions.

However, the DTM has strictly warned against use of any team orders after it thoroughly investigated an incident where Franck Perera appeared to help team-mate Bortolotti’s victory bid at the Nurburgring.

Perera, running a lap behind, appeared very slow at the restart and acted as a shield for Bortolotti against Preining, helping him build a big lead immediately after the end of the safety car period.

But after a careful examination of the team’s radio messages for hours, it was concluded that no instructions had been passed to Perera and he was simply too slow at the restart because he was still running on wet tyres on a dry track.

While the rulemakers found no wrongdoing in Perera’s actions, the investigation is seen as a clear sign that the DTM will take any potential breaches of rules seriously.

The German Motorsport Federation (DMSB), which is responsible for enforcing rules in the DTM, even held a briefing with team managers on this matter a day after the Perera incident.

Drivers are also usually told to stay out of the title fight before the final round every year.

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