Dennis Marschall joined Audi’s factory driver lineup ahead of the 2021 season and took part in a busy year of racing in multiple GT3 championships with the manufacturer.
As part of his official role, the 25-year-old embarked on an expanded program representing Rutronik Racing in ADAC GT Masters, Attempto Racing in Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and Phoenix Racing at the Nürburgring 24.
In this Pirelli Paddock Pass Q&A, Marschall reflects on his first year as a professional driver, the value of working with different teams and his hopes for next year and beyond.
How would you sum up your first year as an Audi Sport factory driver?
“There were so many different racing series I competed in, so it’s difficult to summarize in total. But in general, it was my first year as a professional driver.
“This was the biggest step and success in my career. So just achieving this step meant a lot to me. I would say the year was great before it even started.
“Looking from the sporting side, ADAC GT Masters was a good season. I wouldn’t say it was awesome or bad, just good. But we had some single successes.
“In GT World Challenge, it was a new team for me and lots of new tracks. We didn’t have a big testing program at the start of the year, but we developed well throughout the season
“I think towards the end we were very good with Alex [Aka], my teammate, and the whole Attempto crew. We also had some Audi Sport entries at Spa, which meant a lot to me. It was my second works entry so far.
“I think it was 20 races in total. It was a good experience.”
Did you feel as though your new Audi Sport role gave you more responsibility this year?
“Actually not really, because I had this feeling of responsibility before.
“Of course the last years when I drove for Rutronik Racing I had some other good teammates like [Kelvin] van der Linde and [Patric] Niederhauser who could lead me a bit, by doing setup and helping out the team.
“Of course now, I have more a feeling of responsibility, but I also knew before that to become an Audi Sport driver, I would need to learn this.
“So I was trying to do the same in the years before, helping out the team and improving. I think it developed over the last years.
“Driving quick is one thing, but it’s the whole package: improving the car helping out the team and the customers. That’s all what is part of it.”
How did your GTWC Europe season with Attempto Racing play out?
“We didn’t test as much as other teams. In Germany we say that you jump into cold water, and this was the situation for me.
“Going to Monza without any testing with the team, and not knowing the Attempto setup, was not easy. Also many tracks were new for me like Monza, Paul Ricard, Brands Hatch and some others.
“GT World Challenge is so competitive now that you cannot say that you will go and just be competitive. Therefore we had to get to know each other and understand each other a bit more.
“We had to catch up on the testing disadvantage, and that’s what we did. We were quite quick at Nürburgring and Valencia, and we were improving from race to race.”
What was the highlight of your ADAC GT Masters campaign?
“Red Bull Ring was definitely the highlight. It’s known that the track doesn’t suit the car as much, because of the many straights it has.
“No R8 had ever scored a GT masters pole at the Red Bull Ring, so to achieve this meant quite a lot to me, especially on Sunday morning when I started on pole position.
“And to finish second behind the Corvette, which is known to be one of the best cars for this track, was a really good success by the team.”
How valuable has it been to work with more Audi customer teams this year?
“This was actually one part where I feel I improved a lot.
“So far I have driven the Rutronik car for two years in a row, in 2019 and 2020. I didn’t drive for many other teams, so in the end I knew one setup and driving behavior of the R8.
“This year I got to know more different R8 behaviors, with Phoenix on the Nordschleife and Attempto in GT World Challenge. I think I learned how to adapt more and this helped me a lot.”
How important was Audi in your early motorsport career?
“What’s quite nice, especially in my case, is that I had some early contact with Audi in 2015 when I did the Audi Sport TT Cup.
“It doesn’t mean that when you performed well there, you automatically became a works driver, but I got to know some faces. For example, I saw [customer racing boss] Chris Reinke for the first time there and had one or two sentences with him.
“I think this helped a bit, and it’s a nice little story from my side too, becoming a professional Audi driver all those years later in 2021.”
Does your family come from a racing background?
“Yeah, definitely. My family is really into racing a lot.
“My dad [Thomas] raced a lot in the past, in front-wheel-drives and one-make cups. Touring cars and, as a little kid, I was already in the DTM paddock running around and watching races every weekend almost.”
What are your plans and targets for the 2022 season?
“My wish is to be as long as possible in the Audi Sport pool. You never know: you just have to perform at a certain level year on year.
“I think I did a solid job, and I hope that will continue in the next years. I’m not sure yet, but I hope!”
And are there any new races or series that you would like to tackle in the future?
“Watching the guys do Indianapolis, I was a bit jealous of them there. I would like to do more IGTC races. It’s not confirmed, but I hope to compete in IGTC soon. Who knows!”