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Same driver quality, less carnage with smaller 2024 DTM grid - van der Linde

BMW driver Sheldon van der Linde doesn’t see any downsides to a smaller DTM grid in 2024, as he believes the quality of the field has been kept intact this year.

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Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Only 20 cars are entered for the full 2024 DTM season, marking the fewest entries seen in the championship since it switched to GT3 regulations in 2021.

High operating costs, reduced manufacturer support and economic conditions at large have been cited as key reasons behind the decline in participation from last year, when 28 drivers took part.

However, 17 drivers from 2023 are continuing in the DTM this year, among them big names including like Marco Wittmann, Rene Rast, Lucas Auer, Maro Engel and defending champion Thomas Preining.

Also returning to the category is Le Mans 24 Hours class winner Nicki Thiim, who joins the SSR Performance Lamborghini team this year after an ill-fated debut with T3 Motorsport in 2022.

Van der Linde, one of the four previous title-winners on the grid, feels there is no reason to be concerned about the grid being downsized as no top drivers have lost their seats.

“I think we’ve lost 10 cars but I don’t think we’ve lost any quality,” the 2022 champion told Autosport in Imola at last weekend's World Endurance Championship round. 

“All the big names are there, and that’s obviously important for a championship like DTM to keep having guys like Rene and Marco, ex-champions, which keeps the name of DTM on a higher level. 

“If you’re competing against the best drivers, that automatically puts the championship on a high level.”

Sheldon van der Linde

Sheldon van der Linde

Photo by: BMW Motorsport

The DTM has witnessed a number of dramatic crashes in its GT3 era, with the 2022 events at the Norisring and Hockenheim both dominated by major accidents. Such was the extent of damage from the carnage at the latter event that six drivers were forced to miss the final race of the year.

Last year, as the ADAC took over the championship previously run by ITR, two separate pile-ups brought out the red flag in the second race at the Sachsenring, with a number of cars left with too much damage to take the restart.

Van der Linde, who was himself involved in one of the two incidents, feels a smaller grid will automatically reduce the chances of first-lap wrecks.

“I don’t see it as less cars, I actually see it as positive in the sense that there’s less carnage on the start because last year sometimes it was pretty ridiculous with all the accidents that happened,” he explained.

“Just because there’s too many cars, people are trying to make positions on the start because they know that’s the only time that you can really gain anything out of the race.

“Because in the end, it’s difficult to pass a GT3 car. In that sense it’s going to be more down to qualifying now, less traffic, which means the laps are more fair, you don’t get blocked or anything where a guy that should be at the front starts at the back for example. 

“I think it’s just more fair and you’ll see a true one at the end.”

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