Belgian high-speed rollercoaster
Another premier for DTM: this weekend, the most popular European touring car series is going to contest the first ever DTM race held at Spa-Francorchamps. The rich in tradition 6.973-kilometre circuit, located some 50 kilometres from Aachen, Germany, represents the longest track on DTM’s 2005 calendar, consisting of eleven rounds. Furthermore, Spa is one of the last circuits to still include public roads. The famous ‘Ardennes Rollercoaster’ was opened back in 1924, at that time featuring a track length of 14.863 kilometres, with the current layout being used since 1985.
The corners and bends of Spa are world-famous. Eau Rouge, a steep uphill left-right combination is regarded as the most challenging section of all the circuits on our planet. The DTM cars are expected to reach about 230kph, here. Together with the Raidillon turn that follows the Eau Rouge, Spa features a legendary section representing a truly extraordinary challenge for the drivers. “Flat out into the depression, to feel the impact on the car’s springs and to be pressed down into your seat – that’s rather impressive,” Opel works driver Laurent Aiello describes the ride through the legendary bend.
Eau Rouge is a part of Spa’s longest top speed section that ends with a long straight across the Ardennes forest. “At the end you’ve got to brake extremely late for the third-gear right-left chicane,” adds Laurent Aiello regarding the entrance of the twisting downhill labyrinth that has been responsible for the circuit being regarded as a rollercoaster. “After the following right-hander, you go downhill to the protracted 180-degree hairpin ‘Bruxelles’. The following left-hander is really nice and you have to be really careful when allotting your pace as it’s vital to find the perfect line and speed for entering the following double left-hander ‘Pouhon’,” explains the 2002 DTM Champion. This section is the most difficult combination of the entire lap. The DTM cars will reach their highest speeds – about 255kph – before braking into the right-hander ‘Les Combes’, at the end of the long straight following Eau Rouge and before reaching the ‘Bus Stop Chicane’ leading to the start-finish straight. Just like in Formula One, the La Source hairpin will also be the first corner the DTM field will have to cope with after the start.
As the Belgian GP circuit is the longest on the calendar, the distance to be covered prior to the first pit stops also is longer than at any other venue of the 2005 DTM season. Here, the six laps a driver must complete before he may pit for the first time for new tyres and fuel represent a mileage of 41.838 kilometres. This means that the drivers have completed a quarter of the race’s total mileage before making their first obligatory pit stop while the distance at other circuits adds up to only about ten percent. Therefore, the teams’ possibilities regarding the pit stop strategy are clearly reduced, at Spa-Francorchamps.
Although DTM is going to contest its very first race at Spa, Belgium is anything but virgin soil, for the series. For 15 times already, DTM has raced in Belgium, but up to now only at Zolder, with the most recent DTM round at Zolder having been held in 2002.