Genuinely Different: CUPRA and Daniel Abt

Daniel Abt spent twenty years in motorsport, pushing the limits, embracing social media faster than anyone else. Now he has teamed up with CUPRA to show how much the brand is a people brand.
Text Wiebke Brauer

One thing you and CUPRA have in common is high performance. How important do you think the motorsport background is for you and for the brand?
Motorsport has always been a part of my life, and it taught me early on what it means to push your limits. You can only grow beyond your limits if you push yourself to the max. That goes for me as a person as much as it does for CUPRA as a brand. At CUPRA, they also don’t stay in their comfort zone. CUPRA is all about achieving maximum performance and going new ways.

Is performance an attitude? And where do you see similarities between yourself and the CUPRA brand?
Performance is absolutely an attitude. What I really like about CUPRA is that they are constantly thinking outside of the box. I totally identify with this approach, which is why we harmonize so well.

How do you personally define the CUPRA spirit?
My first encounter with CUPRA was at the IAA motor show in Frankfurt. While the representatives from all the other brands were giving formal speeches in stiffened suits, CUPRA threw a party with an internationally renowned DJ and the possibility to get yourself a tattoo. CUPRA doesn’t fit into any standard molds. It goes its own way, and this spirit spills over to the employees and their outlook on life.

"You can only grow beyond your limits if you push yourself to the max."

Daniel Abt

According to CUPRA’s slogan for the DTM, you are your own best opponent. Would you agree?
Absolutely. When I was racing professionally, I learned that it’s a waste of your time and energy to focus on others. You can only work on yourself, question yourself and try to become better. So that tomorrow you’re already fighting against your yesterday’s self.

Sounds like you’ve got personal experience here.
In my case, a few years of motorsport success were followed by two disastrously bad years. I doubted everything and struggled a lot with myself. In the end, however, I understood that I was the only person who could get me out of that situation, and that I had to work on myself. So I fought my way up out of that slump. I learned a lot about myself and was stronger afterwards than I had been before.

What does the word “authenticity” mean to you?
I realized the potential of social media in 2015, when I was still actively racing. I started filming myself at the track and making YouTube videos for the fans. It was important to me to show an authentic, genuine side of the sport. Most of the other drivers laughed it off and didn’t take me seriously. But I believed in it, kept doing it – and today I see pretty much everyone trying to do the same thing.

Do you always do things differently than others?
A lot, I would say. But I think that everybody does things differently than others in his or her own way. And that’s a good thing.

Daniel Abt was born in Kempten, Bavaria, on December 3, 1992. His father Hans-Jürgen Abt is the owner of the Abt Sportsline racing team. Daniel Abt started his career in karting in 2001, entered the GP2 series in 2014 and competed in the FIA Formula E championship from 2014 to 2020. At the end of the 2020 season, he announced his retirement as a driver. This year Daniel Abt will be traveling with the DTM as CUPRA brand ambassador, providing, among other things, background information on all the races.

How important is courage to you? In your daily life as well as on the racetrack?
Setting yourself goals gives you something to strive for. Having courage makes you want to achieve them. That’s why I see courage as an important part of life if you want to get somewhere.

What was the last big challenge you had to face?
My last big undertaking was to reorient my life after ending my active career. When you’ve done pretty much nothing but race for the last twenty years, that’s an enormous challenge.

You’re traveling with the DTM circus as brand ambassador for CUPRA. What can you tell us about the Formentor VZ5 with the ABT Sportsline GmbH upgrade?
The Formentor is a success story, and the VZ5 has one of my favorite engines. Of course, we had to modify the car a bit for the DTM so it would meet the safety car requirements. We put in a two-way radio and lights and gave it a power upgrade as well as a stiffer chassis.

You’ve driven the car yourself. What did you think? What was your impression?
I drove the car several times around the track and was amazed each time how a car of this class and with such daily driver credentials can still deliver that kind of performance.

"People are always looking for a thrill, for that adrenaline rush, and acceleration triggers just that, even more so than pure speed. In most people, that unleashes feelings of joy and bliss."

Daniel Abt

What, for you, is a contemporary definition of driving pleasure and performance?
The automotive industry is undergoing tremendous change right now, in part because of the challenges of our modern times. That’s why we’re seeing all these changes in the powertrain and in the car itself. But that doesn’t change my definition of driving pleasure and performance. For me, these two things are defined by acceleration, cornering speed and braking ability. The type of powertrain plays only a secondary role. Besides, I find it really exciting to explore new possibilities through technology.

Can you remember the first moment in your life that had something to do with auto racing? When you realized: “Oh, yeah! That’s it!”?
That was probably when I was three years old, the first time I was at a racetrack. Though I didn’t realize the significance of that moment until much later. When I was fifteen, I was given the opportunity to drive a Formula 4 car at the Lausitzring, and I was so blown away that I decided then and there that this was what I wanted to for a living.

Why do you think we are so fascinated by speed and acceleration?
People are always looking for a thrill, for that adrenaline rush, and acceleration triggers just that, even more so than pure speed. In most people, that unleashes feelings of joy and bliss.

Are things going to stay that way?
Sure. Who would say no to feeling happy? [laughs]

The Formentor VZ5 is the motorsport-inspired synthesis of SUV and sports coupe, built for the most beautiful of passions. The top model is powered by a sporty inline five-cylinder engine. The design boasts plenty of functional aesthetics such as an enlarged front splitter for increased airflow to the engine when driving in racing conditions. CUPRA Formentor VZ5 2.5 TSI 287 kW (385 hp) DSG (fuel economy, city: 12.3 l/100 km; highway: 7.5 l/100 km; combined: 9.3 l/100 km; CO₂ emissions, combined: 212 g/km; CO₂ efficiency class: F) The DTM Safety Car depicted here, with an upgrade courtesy of ABT Sportsline GmbH, delivers 444 hp (331 kW) and tops out at 270 km/h. The maximum torque has been increased by 50 Nm to 530 Nm. The sprint from zero to 100 km/h can be achieved within 3.9 seconds.

What opportunities and risks do you think the current mobility transformation entails?
The big opportunity is that we can take this topic forward into the future and develop powertrains and forms of mobility that will enable the next generation to live a better life. That’s already happening as we speak. But a lot of challenges still lie ahead if we want to make some real change. The risk is that the car will lose its allure and fascination, and that we will no longer talk about handling, but only about software.

And where do you see the future of motorsport?
Motorsport is like the automotive industry. You have to be prepared to adapt to the changing realities if you want to survive. A lot of the racing series out there have missed the boat, and they will probably fade away. On the other hand, we will also see new forms of the sport emerge. But the most important thing is to convince the younger generation that seeing a race live is more exciting than watching the next TikTok video.

Last question: What are you currently learning that you couldn’t do before?
I’m working on getting my pilot’s license. That literally expands my horizons.

CUPRA Formentor VZ5
Engine: turbocharged inline-five
Displacement: 2,480 cc
Power: 385 hp (287 kW) at 5,700–7,000 rpm
Torque: 480 Nm at 2,250–5,700 rpm
0–100 km/h: approx. 4.2 s
Top speed: 250 km/h

ramp shop

Latest articles

What’s popping, Stuttgart: ramp meets STARTCOLLECTIONS

On Saturday, December 3, 2022, STARTCOLLECTIONS' pop-up gallery will open for one day in Dorotheenquartier - ramp will be a guest and provide some photos. Read all information about the event here.

Future in Motion

A photographer. A designer. A car that connects the future with the past. Sounds like science fiction, but it’s not. A conversation with star fashion photographer Esther Haase and Eduardo Ramírez, Head of Exterior Design at Hyundai Design Center Europe, about sustainability, feeling at home and truly progressive technology.

Lamborghini Huracan Sterrato: the rock star at Art Basel Miami

At the renowned »Art Basel« art and design fair in Miami, Lamborghini unveiled the »Huracán Sterrato« off-road super sports car. With a proven V10 engine and familiar all-wheel drive, but above all more ground clearance - and yes, roof rails too. We take a look at the most important features.

Car Wash: Marc Lichte and Michael Köckritz talk design

The first time Marc Lichte laid eyes on the legendary Audi Sport quattro as a teenager, he was hooked. But the car we’re washing together today is the Audi e-tron GT that he designed himself. A main topic of our conversation is the Audi of the future. And how difficult it is to get the windows as clean as you’d like.