The team that took Martin Tomczyk to a shock DTM title with an old-spec Audi in 2011 is confident it can remain a front-runner this year despite the champion's defection to BMW.
Team Phoenix is fielding two cars for Mike Rockenfeller and Miguel Molina this year, and because of the switch to new technical regulations for 2012 it is running Audis to the same specification as the lead Abt Sportsline team for the first time.
Last year Tomczyk became the first driver to win the championship in an older-spec car, as he and Phoenix surprised Audi and Mercedes' respective lead teams Abt and HWA. Now that the Nurburgring-based outfit is on a level playing field with the top squads, team boss Ernst Moser believes it can continue to fight at the front even without the reigning champion at the wheel.
"We haven't had such a high level of suspense in the DTM in years," said Moser. "Nobody knows where they stand before the first race. As a team, we're highly motivated but can't really tell yet whether we're good enough as a whole.
"We've been making every effort to gel with our new driver package. I think that'll allow us to show what we showed last year too: that we're among the front-runners."
Former Le Mans 24 Hours winner Rockenfeller, who raced for Phoenix from 2007-2010, and took his first DTM win with Abt last year, is happy with the way his preseason has gone since returning to his old team.
"The excitement about the new season coming up is huge," said Rockenfeller. "Obviously the biggest question mark is where we stand compared with the competition.
"Personally, I've been doing fine with the new Audi A5 DTM and am pleased with the tests. I'm eager to see where we stand, and I'd like to win the season opener."