More overtaking and intelligent tyrecraft – Hankook’s DTM slick for 2017

Tuesday 5th December 2017 | 0 Comments

 

 

The conclusion of this year’s DTM season left fingernails bitten down to the quick. With no less than six potential candidates in the running to claim the touring car series, the question as to who’d finish on top of the drivers’ championship table stayed open right until the chequered flag waved the end of play at the Hockenheimring circuit. In the end, honours went to Audi works driver René Rast, whose second-placed finish on the day pushed his season tally to 179 points, three points ahead of incumbent championship leader and fellow Audi pilot Mattias Ekström and six ahead of British driver Jamie Green, whose hopes of a championship win were dealt a stinging blow the previous day through a ten-place grid penalty for the final race.

It was an impressive maiden victory for Rast. The cliffhanger finish wrapped up a season that saw 12 different winners over 18 races held at seven tracks in five European countries, with Rast finishing in first place on three occasions. As has been the case since 2011, Hankook Tire was present at all events as exclusive tyre supplier.

“I cannot believe that I am the DTM champion, I have still yet to take it in,” exclaimed René Rast. The new champion described the Hankook Ventus Race tyres as “great fun” to drive on even though their management presented a great challenge, particularly as autumn approached and the 2017 ban on tyre pre-heating was most keenly felt. “It goes without saying, though, that it is up to the driver himself to manage the tyres. Everything worked superbly today. I was very happy with the Hankook race tyre all season.”

New tyres for more exciting racing

René Rast took this year’s DTM championship after a memorable season finale

Manfred Sandbichler, director of Hankook’s European motorsport programme, declares the race on 15 October a “great DTM finale” with a “worthy champion” who “showed incredible nerves” for a rookie and thus “fully deserves” this year’s crown. “The fans have enjoyed a season full of exciting races, many overtaking manoeuvres and exciting battles, thanks in no small part to Hankook’s newly-developed Ventus Race,” Sandbichler adds.

The dry weather tyre Hankook introduced for 2017 was developed for use without tyre warmers. Sandbichler comments that drivers needed to compensate for the lack of pre-heated tyres by “working with the race tyre intelligently,” particularly in the opening minutes of proceedings and immediately following a pit stop. Once warmed up, the new Ventus Race produced more grip than its predecessor but wore quicker and more intensively when pushed hard. Explaining why Hankook took this direction, Sandbichler comments that drivers, participating car makers Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and DTM organiser ITR e.V had all requested a new Ventus Race slick that generated more grip than the version offered in 2016. The aim, he adds, was to make DTM races “more exciting again.”

Sandbichler believes Hankook succeeded in fulfilling this remit: “A tyre that wears more quickly and heavily when pushed can have a significant influence on lap times, depending on driving style. That demanded more technical skill from the drivers and this, as mentioned, increased race excitement due to more frequent overtaking manoeuvres.

“That was the kind of motorsport that everyone wants to see,” the motorsport director adds. “It was impossible to predict and every race weekend was different, because the drivers and teams could adopt different strategies with the Hankook race tyre.”

A new era awaits in 2019

Hankook will supply the same slick and wet tyres to the DTM next year, but the crystal ball fogs up when looking further ahead. For several years now, DTM promoter ITR has worked closely with GTA Co., Ltd., promoter of Japan-based championship Super GT, with the aim of developing joint ‘Class One’ technical regulations. After much negotiation, Class One rules are expected to be introduced in 2019, with the DTM adopting four-cylinder, two-litre turbo engines as well as chassis compatible with Super GT’s GT500 class.

Until the end of 2018, DTM races will be contested by three German car makers

The ITV is already softening fans up for the upcoming changes. Following this year’s season finale at the Hockenheimring, the DTM headed for extra time in the land of the rising sun. The three competing manufacturers – and Hankook Tire – were present at the finale of the Super GT series in Motegi on 11 and 12 November. This excursion to Japan, comments Hankook, was organised as a vehicle for intensifying the cooperation between the ITR and the GTA and as an opportunity for drawing up joint technical rules. Sandbichler commented prior to the event that “this return visit to Japan is ringing in a partnership which will make the two already very popular series even more attractive.”

The motorsport boss tells Tyres & Accessories that Hankook’s work for 2019 is still in the planning phase: “We have not decided any new tyre specification for 2019 so far. When the time comes, we will sit together with the DTM organiser and the car makers.” Other considerations linked to a closer collaboration between or any coming together of the DTM and Super GT must also be discussed; whereas DTM works with Hankook as exclusive tyre supplier, Super GT is a championship that allows open tyre competition. “Currently there is no discussion to change. But let’s wait and see.”

Changes on the cards for 2019 go even further. DTM is an attractive series for Hankook Tire as it is, Manfred Sandbichler comments, the only racing series in the world in which car makers compete against each other, an arrangement that makes DTM the perfect vehicle for highlighting Hankook’s original equipment supply to Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Yet when the series gets under way in 2019, the tyre maker will only be able to link DTM to its OEM business with two of these manufacturers. Sandbichler shares that Hankook Tire “very much regrets” the decision by Mercedes-Benz to leave the DTM after the end of the 2018 season.

“Mercedes-Benz DTM drivers have clinched 23 wins on Hankook Tyre since 2011, and we look forward to being able to remain a reliable partner for the Mercedes-Benz DTM teams until the end of 2018 at least,” comments Sandbichler. “Now the DTM promoter ITR, in collaboration with Audi and BMW, as well as the partners committed to the DTM, face the task of realigning the concept of probably the most spectacular touring car series in the world beyond 2018, to secure the continued success of the DTM long-term.”

The 2018 DTM season will begin next April with an opening round in the UK, however the circuit that will host the British event on 21 and 22 April hadn’t been selected at the time of going to print. Should all go to plan, next year will be the first time a DTM round has been contested on British soil since 2013. stephen-goodchild@tyrepress.com

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Category: Motorsport