“You have to work up your courage”
Three drivers – one opinion: with the first half of the season contested, Nico Müller, Philipp Eng und Pascal Wehrlein all come to a positive conclusion and are optimistic regarding the 10 races still to come. The fact that the race meeting at Brands Hatch is held on just two days represents a special challenge for the three drivers. Apart from BMW’s Eng nobody knows the 3.908-kilometre circuit located south of London. Mercedes-AMG driver Wehrlein at least raced at Brands Hatch’s short Indy circuit in 2013 when DTM made it last stop to date in Kent County. For Audi’s Nico Müller, however, Brands Hatch represents absolutely virgin soil.
“The first half of the season generally was anything but easy for Audi,” said Müller, currently 12th in the championship and with 29 points the third-best Audi driver. “And for me, the first two race weekends were particularly difficult. We try to shorten the gap to Mercedes-AMG and BMW. For me, finishing third in the Saturday round a Budapest represented my season highlight so far. In consideration of the situation this was a good result, a result I could be proud of. We are on the way up and should be able to continue this trend in the second half of the season. With a courageous strategy and a good pace further successes should be possible.” On Saturday, the 26-year old who celebrated his only DTM win to date in 2016 at the Norisring will contest his 75th DTM race. “I’m really surprised that I already have got 74 races under my belt. It goes without saying that the win – in Audi’s home meeting – was the outstanding result. It was a very special weekend and remained my highlight until today.”
According to Müller, the tight schedule adds to the thrill
Müller is optimistic when it comes to the races at the English rollercoaster. “The track layout of Brands Hatch resembles the one of Zandvoort a lot. And in the Netherlands we were really competitive. Therefore I’m looking forward to Brands Hatch. I’ve heard only good things and was told that it’s a really fantastic racetrack and a true challenge. I prepared as well as possible with onboard-videos and in the simulator. The tight schedule somehow also represents a chance. And it adds to the thrill. From our race engineers’ point of view, however, it isn’t really cool. If you find the right setup right away you could gain an advantage for the entire Saturday. Therefore, the gut feeling will be particularly important, between the sessions. For the Sunday, however, we will have time for analysing the data as usual.”
Eng is one of the few DTM drivers that know the GP circuit
Spa 24h-Race winner Philipp Eng caused a stir in his first 10 DTM races. With 67 points on his tally, the DTM rookie holds seventh position in the championship. “DTM always was my ultimate goal. At the Lausitzring I secured the pole for my only third DTM race and the first podium in my fourth. Currently, only Gary Paffett scored more qualifying points than me. I wasn’t always happy with my pace but we made a major step forward in this area, at Zandvoort. My conclusion is absolutely positive,” said the Austrian who is one of the few drivers on the DTM grid that now the GP circuit of Brands Hatch. In 2009 and 2010, Eng won F2 races held at the British circuit and in 2016 and 2017 he contested Blancpaint GT Sprint Series races with a BMW M6 GT3, there. “The DTM grid features 18 top pros who will need just a few laps for familiarising themselves with the circuit. „Therefore, I don’t see a real advantage for me. In the GT3 car the circuit is fast but it will be a completely different world in a DTM vehicle. And there are corners where you really have to work up your courage.” The tight schedule doesn’t represent a problem for BMW driver Eng. “Basically I would like the idea to always contest the race weekends this way. I know it as I raced in makes cups and that’s the standard schedule, there. You always have to quickly adapt to the circumstances.”
Wehrlein sees discrepancy between performance and championship position
Wehrlein returned from Formula One to the touring-car series, this year. With 65 points, the 2015 DTM Champion currently holds eighth position in the championship but with his 83-point gap to the current leader, Gary Paffett, he’s only fifth-best Mercedes-AMG driver. None the less he believes to be on the right track, in his comeback season. “The course of the first half of the season was okay. My results, however, could have been clearly better. I could have won a race both at Budapest and Zandvoort but didn’t due to different circumstances. I get along rather well, we have got the pace – but the leaderboard doesn’t reflect the performances,” said Wehrlein who also will celebrate an anniversary at Brands Hatch: the Sunday round will be the 50 DTM race for the German.
So far, Wehrlein qualified second three times in the 2018 season but made it to the podium just once: on Sunday at the Lausitzring. In the previous race meeting, at Zandvoort, he had to settle for finishing fourth and sixth but this weekend at Brands Hatch Wehrlein will make another effort to make it to the top step. He also looks forward to the tight schedule: „We won’t have much time for finding a good setup. The days will be tough and demanding and we certainly won’t have reasons for complaining about boredom. But I like this schedule. We will be a driving a lot and things won’t drag on as usually.”