Successful debut for the ‘Istanbul Park’
It’s just a guess, but probably all the 20 DTM drivers will have been glued to the TV screens to watch the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix, last weekend. Not because they have transformed into faithful supporters of Fernando Alonso, Kimi Räikkönen or Michael Schumacher but as this was the first motor racing event held at the all new circuit. A circuit that will also be the venue of the 2005 DTM season’s penultimate round, held on 2nd October. And although there are clear differences between the Formula One single-seaters and the DTM cars of Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Opel, the opinions of the Formula One drivers and teams may be helpful for the DTM aces when it comes to coping with the new challenge.
All the Formula one drivers agreed on the fact that German architect Hermann Tilke has designed a great 5.430-kilometre track with a much diversified layout. Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director sums up the drivers’ opinions: “The characteristic of the Istanbul circuit represents an extraordinary challenge for both drivers and teams.” The drivers’ praises for the layout of the new track ranged from just great to fantastic.
But what will the DTM drivers have to cope with on the first October weekend, at Istanbul? “With a challenging circuit that features clearly more bumps than I expected,” said Nick Heidfeld, “Particularly in the fast sections.” His compatriot Michael Schumacher lapped the new circuit on a scooter, on the Thursday prior to the race, but this experience turned out to not be particularly helpful. “Behind the wheel of the racing car, the track looked completely different,” he said. “And the fact that you can’t see the entrances of turn 1 and 3 makes the track particularly interesting.”
“The ‘Istanbul Park’ with its track width ranging from 14.5 to 21 metres features a truly spacious track. “The wide track offers a lot of space for different lines,” added Giancarlo Fisichella. Yet, the Italian criticised the last three turns for being too slow. Turn 8 in particular can be cornered on several different lines. According to Fernando Alonso, “Turn 8 is extremely difficult and a bend you don’t find at any other circuit on the calendar.
New track, new surface – what about the grip level? Only during the Friday free practice sessions, held after slight rain showers had fallen, the winner to-be, McLaren-Mercedes driver Kimi Räikkönen, complained about a low grip level and a slippery track surface. But what happens if you misjudged the grip level and go off? “There are many spacious run-off areas,” explains Ralf Schumacher. “The circuit is very safe.”
The first major motor racing event at the all new venue in Turkey has provided DTM with some hints regarding the circuit’s characteristic. And on the Friday of the inaugural Turkish DTM weekend you will find out how the DTM drivers will do on Istanbul’s new circuit.