Option tyre playing ‘major role’ in exciting DTM season – Hankook
The introduction of an option tyre this year in DTM was something of an unknown quantity, as teams had no previous data or experience with which to predict its performance. With one set available only for the race, it was always going to be interesting to see how they would be used, and the tyre supplier to the German touring car series (competing in international locations) believes that its influence has had a positive effect on the action, heading into the second half of the season at the Moscow Raceway this weekend. Hankook says the softer compound Ventus Race Plus has allowed drivers to set faster lap times in the first 30-60km of use, before the tyre’s performance drops off to levels below those offered by the regular Ventus Race tyre. It is constructed to behave in this way purposely to allow for more tactical racing, and with five races won by five different drivers (albeit with one subsequently disqualified), the top five in the drivers’ standings within 24 points and all manufacturers with at least one race victory, Hankook argues that the tyre has helped make the series more competitive.
At the season opener in Hockenheim in May the new super-fast tyre performed better than expected on the finely-grained asphalt with little degradation leading to longer stints than expected. Spectators saw numerous overtaking manoeuvres and entertaining duels. “Driving with the option tyres is great. I can only applaud Hankook’s competition engineers and their achievements.” said Augusto Farfus (BMW) after his victory in the first DTM race of the season.
At Brands Hatch in the south of England a fortnight later, Hankook’s base-line slick tyre played a bigger role. The option tyre allowed for faster lap times for a while, but degraded significantly after an average of 30km on the twisty track with its rough and open surface structure. “It was planned just like that, the Ventus Race Plus acts as a tactical measure to allow for faster lap times for a limited time, but it should not replace the base-line tyre,” Hankook’s DTM race engineer Michael Eckert explained. “After Hockenheim, I thought that we could use the option tyres for a longer time. However, the standard tyre worked very well.” winner Mike Rockenfeller (Audi) said. And Robert Wickens (Mercedes-Benz), who finished third, enthused: “The performance of the standard tyre was phenomenal.”
Spielberg in Austria was the third venue on the DTM tour calendar and the second round outside of Germany in a row. For many teams, difficulty came from finding the right balance between performance and consistency in qualifying, which has to be driven with race set-up, and must also consider the particular characteristics of the option tyres that can only be used during the race. A shining example could be seen by reigning DTM champion Bruno Spengler, who scored a dominant lights-to-flag victory. “I could drive really long with the Hankook option tyres and achieve fast lap times. That was one of the keys to victory,” the BMW driver said, happy with his first win of the season.
At the technically demanding Lausitzring circuit with its tight infield a fortnight later, the option tyre again played a major role. “Degradation was even less than at Spielberg, the new fast Ventus Race Plus will last long,” Michael Eckert predicted. And Hankook’s DTM race engineer was right. Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller moved up from sixth place on the grid to finish second, his fellow Audi driver Mattias Ekström even made up ten positions thanks to the Ventus Race Plus. Gary Paffett (Mercedes-Benz) claimed the first season win for the car manufacturer from Stuttgart and praised the Ventus Race Plus afterwards: “The key to success was the great performance of the car in qualifying with the base-line slick tyre.”
The first half of the DTM season ended at the Norisring. At the legendary street circuit, spectators got to see everything that is making motorsport so popular and interesting: numerous overtaking manoeuvres, tough duels, which caused Gary Paffett (Mercedes-Benz) and Edoardo Mortara (Audi) to retire, and excitement until the very end. Having switched to option tyres early, Audi driver Mattias Ekström had taken the lead and pulled a big gap. The Swede also remained in front after his final pit stop, just before the end, and secured Audi’s first victory in Nuremberg since 2002. However, the joy over this historic win only lasted some five hours as. The Swede was disqualified because water had been poured into his race suit in parc ferné before he was weighed. Audi’s appeal against this decision was turned down by the appeal court of the Deutscher Motor-Sport Bund (DMSB) last Tuesday. However, the other drivers don’t move up, as Ekström “didn’t have an advantage in competition, because his car was according to the regulations and he had achieved his victory on track in impeccable sporting conditions.” Audi accepted the decision and thus, the fifth DTM season round at the Norisring remains without a winner. Mercedes-Benz drivers Robert Wickens and Christian Vietoris were classified second and third.
DTM visits the Moscow Raceway this weekend with Hankook expecting more exciting racing during the season’s second half.