DTM Heads To Zolder WATCH LIVE
Round Two of the 2019 DTM sees the cars head to Belgium and the famous Zolder circuit. The Belgian track is considered the ‘birthplace’ of DTM. It was there, in March 1984, that the first-ever DTM event was run – assembling a broad array of manufacturers and drivers into a cohesive series, whose first race was won by German touring car legend Harald Grohs.
Second, Zolder was once a mainstay on the calendar, hosting 22 races between 1984 and 2002. Indeed, this weekend’s 23rd and 24th races will make it the most visited non-German circuit in DTM’s history.
Finally, that 17-year absence has certainly made the heart grow fonder. And DTM’s 2019 teams and drivers will descend upon the narrow, stop-start racetrack with a blend of curiosity and enthusiasm to discover the secrets of a ‘new’ old circuit…
For most drivers, the first step in circuit acclimatisation is to spend time aboard the simulator. Or, failing that, some catch-up time with a high-end racing game (Jamie Green was spotted on Twitter learning the circuit on Assetto Corsa).
Both give the drivers a good impression, and an understanding of circuit layout, braking points and corner speeds. They don’t adequately replicate the track’s bumps, or the run-offs and kerbs – but that’s why Thursday afternoon’s track-walk is so necessary, especially for a new circuit.
“I prepare myself by watching onboard videos, sitting in the simulator and then walking the track,” says Hockenheim winner Rene Rast. “As for the race, I won’t change my approach – I always try to make the most of the weekend, but we still have a lot to learn about our car to get the most out of it.”
Robin Frijns dubbed Zolder a ‘mini Nordschleife’ – and if it lacks the fabled Eifel track’s expansive feel, it’s tricky to master – and, with minimal run-off, fairly unforgiving.
Many drivers have noted that the track’s kerbs may well be too high to ride over, and that the stop-start nature of the course, which is interrupted by several chicanes, may make overtaking more difficult.
“Qualifying will be very important there,” says R-Motorsport’s Jake Dennis. “I drove the track in 2018, and it’s quite tight; a bit ‘old school’.”
“On the onboard footage I’ve seen, everything looks pretty tight there,” adds Timo Glock. “It’s stop-and-go, with few run-off zones. The track-walk on Thursday night will certainly be a bit more extensive than at a place like Hockenheim, which we all know like the back of our hands.”
Underlining the pace he showed at Hockenheim, Philipp Eng emerged fastest overall in the afternoon’s dry second session, setting a best time of 1m22.476s. The Austrian, who drives for Belgian outfit BMW RBM, was a scant 0.039s faster than South Africa’s Jonathan Aberdein, who drives for WRT Audi, DTM’s other Belgian squad.
“I’m very happy,” Eng said afterward. “The lap-time shows that there’s a good pace in the car. It was a fairly quiet and relaxed session, and I hope we can continue the weekend like this.”
Aberdein led a trio of Audi drivers; he was followed by Hockenheim race winner René Rast, and Robin Frijns, the Dutchman who lives locally and claims the Belgian track as his home race.
BMW drivers Timo Glock, Marco Wittmann and Bruno Spengler filled fifth to seventh places. Fastest R-Motorsport Aston Martin driver was Daniel Juncadella in 15th.
Source DTM Media