Positive experiences, negative results
The first steps always are the hardest. Philipp Eng’s first DTM weekend went anything but smoothly. In the two races held at Hockenheim, the Austrian finished 16th and 14th respectively. “I’m happy with the experiences I gathered but not so with the results,” admitted the 28-year old who got to know a lot of new things – particularly aloof from the track. “It’s very intense. You have to do a lot of things throughout the weekend. You are running from meeting to meeting and in addition, you have to deliver in the car. Nonetheless, it’s fun. I feel comfortable in DTM and its environment.”
Despite being a rookie in DTM, Eng is far from being an unknown quantity in the motor-racing world. The man with the nickname ‘Peng’ has got wins in the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany and the Spa 24 Race on his tally. Nonetheless, the BMW driver had to learn it the hard way, in the season opener. “I had to find out that there is absolutely no space for mistakes. If your car and your tyres aren’t fully in the window, securing a position at the front is very difficult, particularly in the qualifying sessions. 90 percent of the basis for success is laid in qualifying. If you haven’t done your jobs or your homework perfectly you have to cope with standing at the end of the grid.”
In Eng’s case that meant 15th and 18th positions on the grid. With similar gaps to the pole-sitters: on Saturday he was 0.726 minutes slower than Gary Paffett and on Sunday, he was outqualified by pole-sitter Timo Glock by 0.737 seconds. “Had nobody else been on the circuit I’d said: “That’s fine. Top five or top six.’ And then you are told: ‘18th’. That’s making your life really difficult. You just have to take a look at the drivers racing in DTM. They don’t make mistakes. You’re only 18th but just two tenths of a second slower than the driver in 10th position. So, that’s looking worse than it really is,” says Eng who – to make things even worse – also mulled the start of his first DTM race.
“And then you have to pay the price – at once”
“I was surprisingly relaxed. I hadn’t expected to be that cool. When the lights were switched off I hit the clutch too early, and then you have to pay the price – at once. The car is preloaded to the max and if you begin the reload too early the clutch temperatures rise extremely. I was just careless. Not the appropriate approach.”
But you learn from your mistakes and Eng is well aware of what he has to work on in the run-up to the Lausitzring weekend. After all he gained four positions in the Sunday race and set the fourth-fastest race lap time by crossing the line in 1:34.830 minutes. “On Sunday I made a better start. I wouldn’t mind if the season continued like that. I passed five or six cars and had a lot of good fights. Now it’s all about analyzing everything to understand what happened on the Hockenheim weekend – particularly in the qualifying sessions. That currently is our clearly weakest point.”