Series promoter ITR has come up with its own ideas for the future of the championship, prompted by the apparent inevitability that the traditional internal combustion engine’s days are numbered. This is a problem for a championship like DTM, which relies almost entirely on manufacturers who are interested in using the series to promote their road cars: if they stop offering petrol and diesel cars altogether, why go racing with them?
As a result, DTM has come up with a potential route it could go down in the future. It’s full of all sorts of interesting stuff, but the thing that immediately jumps out at us is the idea that pit stops could be performed by robots. Yes, robots.
OK, so the images show the kind of robots that you’d see operating on production lines and not a team of Asimo-style machines with a bipedal humanoid form, which is a bit of pity. It is, however, still rather cool - the driver stops in the box, has their wheels changed by a machine, and then a couple of arms remove and replace the spent batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.
As exciting as it is to see an army of mechanics service a car in just a few seconds, it can be rather dangerous - in F1’s Bahrain Grand Prix last year, a Ferrari mechanic had his leg badly broken as a result of a pit error.
Technically, some series already have ‘robots’ in their pit stops - Super Formula teams use automatic front jacks - but DTM’s idea is to go the whole hog and automate the whole process. Is it feasible? Maybe, maybe not.
With the planned switch to electric power also comes the possibility of using hydrogen fuel cells to generate that power - technology that has been around a while, but has yet to be fully commercialised by the road car industry. By giving it a racing application, the idea is that it would help to drive development of the tech.
Power would also ramp up dramatically, with the current 600bhp cars looking pedestrian in comparison as electric power would boost the output of the cars to over 1000bhp. That hardly seems surprising when you realise that the ITR chairman is a certain Mr Gerhard Berger, a man who wrestled the outrageous turbo monsters of 1980s Formula 1.
It all sounds pretty impressive. It’s important to mention that all of this isn’t definitely going to happen - there’s certainly no time frame given for any changes - but it’s good to see that a championship the size of DTM is proactively looking to the future and realising it’ll have to change if it wants to keep on…well, existing. This probably isn’t exactly what DTM will look like in five or 10 years, but it gives us an idea of where it wants to go.
As long as they keep the pit robots.
A version of this article was originally published on WTF1