The man responsible for the tyres – ruler of temperatures and pressures
He has been working in motor racing for 36 years, now, joined Team Phoenix back in 1999 and hasn’t missed a single DTM race since 2000. Reiner Weigert is the team’s person in charge for the tyres, thus having to cope with a massive responsibility. “The cars feature a lot of sophisticated technology but in the end, the tyres make for the only contact with the road. They have to be perfect to allow the car / driver making maximum use of the sophisticated ideas of the engineers,” says the 63-year old who doesn’t look like being 63. Weigert is as fit as a fiddle – and has to be. The weight of a tyre with wheel amounts some 25kg and the team takes at least 60 tyres and the same number of wheels to a race weekend – 15 complete sets for the two cars. “The proper lifting technique is important – you have to use your complete body. If you opt for the wrong technique you never will survive the weekend.” Furthermore, he does not only juggle with tyres during the DTM events but is in charge for one of the most important components of a DTM car throughout the year. And prior to as well as after a DTM race meeting he takes care of all the equipment his team needs on site.
As person in charge for the tyres Weigert also is one of the team’s truck drivers. “But that’s just 10 percent of my tasks,” he reveals. Before getting behind the wheel of one of the multi-functional team trucks, he and his team have to make sure that the tyres that have to be taken along are in optimum condition. They all are thoroughly washed and painstakingly checked. If you have to do so with 15 sets of tyres, the effort is enormous and consumes a lot of time.”
When Weigert has arrived at the respective race venue, unloading naturally is his first task. Tyres and wheels are taken to tyre partner Hankook where the raffle is executed. “All the tyres are assigned to the drivers and session by this raffle. And thanks to my barcode scanner I know at any time when what tyre may be used in which session and by which driver. I definitely mustn’t mix the tyres up. When a car is driving on the wrong tyres, during a session, you are in big trouble – the result is the immediate disqualification.”
Penalties – although not that drastic – also are imposed when the wet-tyre boxes are opened without permission. So, Weigert also has to keep an eye on this issue, too. “The box contains three sets of wets. And it only may be opened when the race control declares a session or race as wet race. In addition, all the tyres are packed and sealed with DMSB leads overnight to prevent any manipulations. Should a seal be damaged unintentionally – what can happen in the tight garages - Weigert has to act quickly. “I have to contact the steward and am told off. Then he checks all the tyres and replaces the seal. But things like that shouldn’t happen too often.”
Prior to and during the session, the perfect preparation is fundamental. The function of tyre heaters and control units is checked. “Should we have a problem in this area, a car suddenly can be shod with three warm and one cold tyre. A situation the driver just needn’t to go out in. Therefore, we usually already prepare for the next session while contesting the previous one.” Temperature and pressure have to be perfect when the tyres are fitted by the mechanics – particularly when it comes to the pit stop in the Sunday race. “We are driving with different pressures in all the four tyres, our measuring devices are working precisely up to a hundredth. The pressures have to be adapted to track conditions and temperatures. These decisions are made by the race engineer – we only execute them.” In addition, Weigert has to respond to the time schedule of the respective race meeting. The Porsche Carrera Cup, for instance, races on the tyres of another manufacturer that also leave rubber on the track. “This can result in changed grip conditions and we have to respond to this situation. But how we do so remains internal.”
After every session, the tyre care takes centre stage. “Fortunately we have got a tyre-washing machine, today. I still remember the days when we had to manually clean the tyres. It was a huge effort and with today’s tight schedules it would be just impossible. The tyres that are put into the machine including the wheels are peppered with a special granulate while the inside is cleaned with brushes.
Nonetheless, Weigert and his team have got their hands full. Altogether, they move about 10 tons per weekend. A job, the 63-year old would love to carry out for another few years. “Working in the pit lane fascinates me to the max. I always plan ahead for two years and at this point in time I still am absolutely fit. I often am asked when I will retire. Apparently, there are several people who are eager for my job,” Weigert says with a laugh.