It has been a fairytale year for Audi Sport’s Mike Rockenfeller, as he finally claimed the Drivers’ Championship for the 2013 season at Circuit Park Zandvoort just under a fortnight ago after six seasons in the category. His consistency has clearly been unparalleled this season, having scored points in all races this year, as well as having a team that has been a contender over the last three seasons.
Along with “Rocky,” Ernst Moser’s Team Phoenix, based in Meuspath, just outside the legendary Nurburgring, have been very instrumental in helping the 2012 Le Mans winner to his first of potentially multiple titles in the series. This is especially the case as strategies have really taken on another dimension with the addition of the Drag Reduction System and Hankook providing Option tyres.
“Rocky” is the consummate professional on and off the race track, and behind all the branding, the Tag Heuer Monaco he wears on his wrist to the four rings that are on his team wear and Racesuit, he is a well-mannered and rather quiet individual, whose feet are both clearly on the ground.
His partner, Suzanne, who he has been with for the last 10 years, supports him on every race, and gives him all the comfort he needs, even if the racing doesn’t go well. As the team base is not far from his parent’s house, “Rocky” goes to see his parents in the town of Neuwied, just off the Rhein, where there is a trophy room that is from his early days in karting right up to the present day.
The local populace that know Rockenfeller since he was a child say that he has never changed and has always been the same even with his successes in the DTM and in Endurance Racing. This also shows the nature of the sport will never change certain characters, who at the end of the day, just want to do their job, but if success comes their way, it means that the efforts and sacrifices made on the way to the top taste that little bit more sweeter.
The team player has been backed to the hilt, with Team Phoenix not taking any chances, but they have been the ones that have really made the best of any situation when tactical choices are put into place. Take for instance the pit stops that the team has done in order to get their driver in contention for points-scoring positions.
He was down in 13th place at Spielburg, but thanks to two pretty stellar pit stops, he ended up as top Audi Sport driver in fourth place, behind the trio of BMW drivers that blitzed the podium: outgoing champion Bruno Spengler, along with Team MTEK’s Marco Wittmann and Timo Glock.
At Norisring and Nurburgring, he has been at the very back of the field, but the turnaround, especially at the Eifel, was great from a strategy point of view, whereby he was able to finish in the top five. The latter saw the 2013 DTM Champion go off track on the very first corner, but the call by Moser’s outfit to put “Rocky” on slicks was an inspired one, which made all the difference at the right time.
He has shown that consistency is a factor that is essentially required to make the title charge a reality. His lack of consistency over the last couple of years could be put down to the fact that he has combined his racing in the DTM with an endurance racing program, but now that there were clashes with both calendars, it was a case of coming down to choosing just what was the best choice. “Rocky” is a fine and deserving champion, but will he decide to defend his title in 2014?
He has shown interest in going back to racing in the WEC, but it may be prudent to see how the decision develops for next year, as to where he sees further progression. He may be into the latter years of his career in the DTM, along with the likes of fellow Audi Sport drivers Timo Scheider and Mattias Ekstrom, but I think that there is still more left to come.
Moser has said that “Rocky” can become a DTM Legend in his own right, but it can depend on the decision the 29-year-old has to make, now that he has secured one of his goals. His extended contract with Audi itself gives him the choice to decide to race in the DTM or in the WEC, so the decision he makes will be well-researched and well-informed, so he makes the right choice for him.
The silly season rumours have already started to emerge from the DTM, with a potential of Felipe Massa showing his interest, but the main questions are as follows: Who could be staying? Who could be going? Who is going where?