Clear the stage for the DTM double header at Zandvoort
Since the start of the season, drivers, teams and, above all, the fans eagerly have been awaiting a highlight on the DTM calendar: the weekend at Zandvoort, at the unique circuit in the dunes on the Dutch coast, that combines racing action and beach atmosphere in an unparalleled way. After the initial roll-out at Circuit Park Zandvoort, drivers Mike Rockenfeller, Bruno Spengler and Daniel Juncadella spoke about their impressions and expectations.
During the DTM weekend at the Norisring a fortnight ago, Mercedes-Benz scored two dominant wins. Nevertheless, Daniel Juncadella is sceptical: “Building on these achievements will be difficult, especially because we now have to race with additional weight. But I like the track and I always did well here at Zandvoort in Formula 3. In the DTM, admittedly, it hasn’t worked out yet, but I hope to change that this weekend,” the 24-year-old shows his competitive spirit.
Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller is hoping for a turnaround as well: “In spite of my pole position at Hockenheim, I had a rather poor start of the season. Things were never going really well, there was always something that was missing. Often, it was the necessary bit of luck. However, our car is good, because one needs a lot of downforce here, and the Audi has good aerodynamics. As a result, I have all the possibilities to achieve the turnaround.” As far as expectations are concerned, the German is rather cautious: “I don’t want to speculate about a possible position, but when I can get the full performance from my car this weekend, I will be heading home with a smile on my face.”
BMW driver Bruno Spengler has a similar view: “I had a good final race in Nuremberg where I ended up third. That was a step forward and especially good for the team after the rather difficult start of the season. Still, we have a lot of work to do, it will be a tough battle for me. In this situation, you can’t set yourself any major goals. Perhaps, we can say a little bit more after qualifying tomorrow.” He wants to support his employer BMW on its way back to the top as well as he can: “For a real development, one needs tests in order to acquire more data, but unfortunately, we don’t have that chance. Thus, the only thing one can do as a driver is to give precise information to the engineer after getting out of the car.”
For the two upcoming races, Juncadella sees a particular challenge in the characteristics of the circuit. “It is the only track where there are no discussions about the track limits, because the grass is the limit. That is fun, but it also makes overtaking difficult.” That is exactly the reason why Mike Rockenfeller is expecting that qualifying will be the key to success: “I reckon, qualifying will be deciding a lot here at Zandvoort, because otherwise, getting up to the front at the narrow track with just one straight is difficult.” In the process, however, there is plenty of room for errors: “For instance, when you have to make way for a driver on his fast lap when you are on your out lap, it is particularly difficult because of the sand next to the racing line,” the 2013 DTM champion says.
One thing all three drivers want, is softer tyres that degrade more on the course of the race. “When the tyres aren’t so stable, a good set-up and a clever driving style are making an even bigger difference,” Juncadella says. Spengler agrees: “Basicially, I like the fact that we only have one type of tyres for this season, that is clearer for spectators. But I would like to have softer tyres, too.” Rockenfeller adds: “That is making qualifying more important, too, because it happens less often on track that one can overtake an opponent whose tyres are gone.”
For the races during the weekend that has now started, tyre wear could still become an issue. Experience shows that the surface at Zandvoort is very hard on the tyres and could be causing problems for some of the drivers as they reach the wear limit of their tyres earlier than expected. In any case, fans can look forward to exciting racing action. It gets underway on Saturday at 14.55 hrs with qualifying. The lights will go out for the first race at 18.03 hrs.