The switch to a slick that wears more quickly and offers added grip is expected to significantly influence lap times
Cars competing in the DTM this season will wear a completely new generation of Hankook slick. The new Ventus Race is the fourth generation of Hankook slick supplied to the touring car championship and comes in the front axle size 300/680 R 18 and rear axle 320/710 R 18 – the same sizes as used in 2016. Hankook Tire states that it generates more grip than its predecessor and, when pushed hard, will wear more quickly and intensively than the tyres used last season. Depending on driving style, these characteristics are expected to significantly influence lap times.
In producing a grippier, faster wearing Ventus Race, the exclusive DTM tyre partner has fulfilled a request submitted by vehicle manufacturers Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, as well as race organiser ITR e.V. The car makers and the organiser anticipate that the new tyres will provide additional race excitement and significantly more overtaking manoeuvres. Hankook Tire shares that final tests have shown a tendency for lap times to increase by several seconds as the tyres wear, particularly when a more aggressive driving style comes into play. The exclusive tyre supplier foresees that racers will need to rely more heavily upon tactical skills in future.
“There is no doubt that the DTM is one of the most technically demanding racing series in the world, so our development engineers have had some hard nuts to crack with the DTM racing tyres,” comments Manfred Sandbichler, Hankook’s motorsport director. “As in the past, we have done a good job fulfilling the 2017 specification, as feedback from the latest tests confirms. This means another exciting season awaits in terms of tyres.”
Thomas Baltes, the racing engineer at Hankook Tire responsible for DTM activities, adds: “The new DTM slicks are a completely new development, although the sizes remain the same. With the fourth generation of Ventus Race tyres, the focus will be back on the ‘tyre whisperers’ among the DTM drivers. Those drivers and their engineers who manage to run the tyres in particularly well, in order to get them to their optimum temperature window as quickly as possible but without too much aggression, will have a significant advantage in 2017. The treatment of the tyres during qualifying will also have more influence on the performance during the subsequent race than has previously been the case.”
Another change for the 2017 season is that slicks are no longer allowed to be pre-heated. This means, comments Hankook Tire, that competitors must drive “intelligently”, particularly at the start and during the first laps after a pit stop, in order to get the tyres up to working temperature as quickly as possible.
The car makers’ teams appear to find the latest Ventus Race to their liking. Audi’s Mattias Ekström comments: “Following the tests and hundreds of kilometres driven with the new tyres, I am very confident as far as the performance for the new season is concerned. As a driver, I noticed the changes immediately: the structure seems somewhat harder and the rubber is significantly softer. This leads to very exciting road performance and significantly faster lap times when you get the tyre working for you properly. I can feel a significant drop with the new tyres in comparison to our previous ones. This gives us drivers the possibility of making a greater difference depending on how we handle the tyres. On hot days in particular, it will be fascinating to see what performance the individual drivers can produce and maintain over the distance.”
BMW driver Augusto Farfus shares: “The new tyre offers more grip than its predecessor, however the so-called ‘drop’ is higher too, which will guarantee more interesting races. As the driver, I have a certain influence on this drop which is exciting. Driving with tyres that have not been preheated will present a special challenge, particularly on cold track surfaces, because it is much more difficult to get the tyres up to temperature. All in all, these are positive changes that will make the races even more fascinating.”
Drivers from the Mercedes-Benz camp also showered praise over the 2017 tyre and the changes expected to accompany it. Gary Paffett: “The tyres feel good and will ensure plenty of exciting racing. The changes mean a bit less downforce, but the tyres will have slightly more grip. That should make it possible to get closer to the guy in front, so racing should be that bit more exciting and also lead to more overtaking manoeuvres.” Robert Wickens adds: “We’ve driven a lot of kilometres, and it all went well. The most important thing for me is to understand the new tyres. It’s still very early in the development phase, but the initial indications are good. They are performing well and should make for some thrilling racing.”
While a new generation slick is expected to liven racing in dry conditions, the wet weather Ventus Race Rain will remain unchanged for the 2017 season.