DTM rejects drivers' demand for repeater lights in rolling starts

The DTM has turned down calls from drivers to install a set of repeater lights to improve visibility and cut down the chances of startline accidents.

DTM rejects drivers' demand for repeater lights in rolling starts

The German-based category switched to Indy-style, two-by-two rolling starts following the introduction of GT3 regulations in 2021, with the same procedure also applicable after each safety car period.

However, DTM starts came under fire after a chaotic first race at the Norisring earlier this month when 16 out of 27 cars retired from action, many during the original start or immediately after one the four safety car restarts.

Porsche driver Laurens Vanthoor claimed “70% of the field can’t see the lights” this year following a massive jump in entries, with the visibility of start lights having been less of an issue in 2021 when only 19 cars were present.

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But the DTM has all but ruled out adding additional start lights in the middle of the season, having been satisfied by a special drivers’ briefing that led to a trouble-free second race at the Norisring.

"I see it similarly to the situation with the [AF Corse] pit stops last year and therefore see no reason to interrupt this continuity in the course of the season,” DTM Technical Director Michael Resl told Autosport's sister website Motorsport-Total.com.

“This should not be taken to mean that we are shirking responsibility, but there are rules that were laid down before the season. And if you were to want to change something today, then that entails a rat's tail of other changes, which in turn cause other problems."

Drivers complained about a lack of visibility of start lights as early as the opening round of the season at Portimao back in April. 

The DTM considered several options to address the issue, including the addition of repeater lights and the race director signalling the start over radio, but no satisfactory solution could be reached.

“The biggest problem with the repeater lights is that you have to bring them into line with the existing launch system,” said Resl.

Teams have sought repeater lights since the opening round of the season in Portimao

Teams have sought repeater lights since the opening round of the season in Portimao

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

“You have to synchronise everything. This is not entirely trivial - and can lead to errors.”

DTM’s manager for sports and technology Layla Wagener added: “We would have to purchase a complete starting lights system - with our own starting lights, repeater lights and pit exit lights.

“A combined system is not feasible due to different track infrastructure and different start light systems.”

Interestingly, the DTM did set up a separate start lights system including repeater lights for each race during the Class One years, but back then standing starts were still the order of the day. 

Resl was sympathetic of the issue faced by drivers, but was adamant that a second set of starting lights wasn’t necessary.

“I agree with everyone who complains because they don't know when the lights turn green in a standing start,” he said.

“But with a rolling start in NASCAR and in the IndyCar Series, the field is constantly moving. There, the starting position changes continuously due to the driver in front of you.”

Drivers do receive information about the race start from their engineer over team radio. However, Resl and Wagener feel a centralised system involving the race director announcing the start is fraught with issues. 

“It should not be in the power of the race director to give the start radio,” Resl explained.

The DTM says it won't make changes to the start procedures this year

The DTM says it won't make changes to the start procedures this year

Photo by: DTM

“Every driver is in radio contact with his race engineer, but even there there is excitement because there might be a one-second time delay. But that's not our problem because it's up to the team which radio provider they use and how well that works.”

Wagener added: “For that reason as organisers, we can't guarantee that every radio system will work properly at all times. That's why we don't see a start signal via radio as being purposeful at the moment.”

That said, the DTM will consider the introduction of a second set of lights next year, provided it can be calibrated with the main lighting gantry to avoid any delays.

“We are looking at the technologies and will also test them,” Resl said.

“We won't use them this year, but if the race directors see a risk in the start sequence and we've tested a solution by then where we don't have any failures and everything is synchronised, then I wouldn't want to rule out that we'll see something like that at certain circuits.”

However, Resl doesn't want to hear complaints about the current solution not being fair.

“If you qualify worse, you have worse conditions - that's just the way it is. Then you're further away from the traffic lights,” he concluded.

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