Phoenix Racing Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller claims he is ready and looking forward to defending his DTM title.
Rockenfeller, 30, won the title last year ahead of his BMW rival Augusto Farfus, with the eventual champion only twice finishing outside of the top five, as he turned in a stellar display of speed and consistency.
As impressive as that consistency was, the German racer is looking to the opening round with a healthy degree of aggression. “I’m happy to return to Hockenheim and to attack,” said Rockenfeller. “Everybody is travelling to the first race with high expectations, and so am I: my goal is to manage a good start into the season and immediately score plenty of points.”
Rockenfeller’s two races outside of the top five in 2013 both came at Hockenheim – something which the reigning champion is keenly aware. “My two races at Hockenheim last year were fair to middling at best, so I‘ve got high ambitions here for 2014.”
Yet Rockenfeller makes just one of seven champions who currently hold sway on the grid. Alongside the Audi man with title honours are his stable mates Timo Scheider (2008 & 2009) and Mattias Ekström (2004 & 2007), BMW’s Bruno Spengler (2012) and Martin Tomczyk (2011) and Mercedes duo Gary Paffett (2005) and Paul di Resta (2010).
For di Resta, the Scot returns to the DTM category after three years away with Force India in Formula One and he is determined to pick up where he left off; however the 28-year-old knows that is will not be an easy task as that. “It feels great to be back in DTM. Other drivers may have acquired more experience with these cars during my three-year absence competing in Formula 1, for sure, but I can adapt relatively easily and quickly to new circumstances, which I proved in Formula 1.”
Beyond the other champions, Rockenfeller must also face off several newer faces on the grid. Nico Müller (Audi Team Rosberg) crosses from the Formula Renault 3.5 Series; as does his BMW rival Antonio Felix da Costa (Team MTEK), while Maxime Martin (BMW Team RMG) has transferred over from the Blancpain Endurance Series. Former Formula One driver Vitaly Petrov also makes the move to DTM, albeit with the Mercedes’ Mücke Motorsport squad.
The debutants will also be fighting off the other relative new boys in the series: Daniel Juncadella, Robert Wickens, Christian Vietoris and Pascal Wehrlein – all of whom have entered the category in the past three seasons.