The halfway stage of the 2016 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters season hits the North Sea coast this coming weekend, as the fifth race weekend sees the series travel to Circuit Park Zandvoort.
Audi Sport’s ranks will be looking to bolster their chances individually, as well as a collective unit, as the 4.307-km track will be one of the biggest challenges of the year for all concerned.
Out of the current active roster, Team Abt Sportsline’s Mattias Ekström has the highest tally of wins here with four to his credit, with his first career victory in 2002 taking place in the same year that Laurent Aiello won the driver’s title.
“There are many nice turns in great combinations, uphill and downhill sections, plus the track has a wonderful rhythm,” said the two-time champion, as corners such as Tarzanbocht and Schivlak are just some of the challenging parts that need to be approached in the right manner.
“What I like best are the turns you practically enter blindly – that’s where you need a lot of confidence in your car.”
Mike Rockenfeller also has some great memories at Zandvoort, as he not only took his first DTM win there in 2011, but followed that up by taking his first DTM title just two years later.
But it hasn’t been easy for the Team Phoenix driver so far this year, having only secured two points finishes at Hockenheim and Spielberg, which puts him in 20th overall in the standings.
“I hope that, following the difficult start of the season, we’ll be able to continue these successes this year,” said the 32-year-old.
One driver that is looking to continue his good run of form after Norisring is Team Abt’s Nico Müller, as the Swiss ace added to his points-scoring tally with a maiden victory at the Franconia Monaco three weeks ago.
“Once you’ve mounted the top of the podium, you definitely become addicted to more of the same,” said the 24-year-old, who was in contention for a podium at the circuit in his début season back in 2014, until contact with Christian Vietoris ended his race.
In the hunt for the manufacturer’s title, the Ingolstadt marque is currently 34 points behind BMW, who took a double victory last year with Marco Wittmann and António Félix da Costa.
Audi’s Head of DTM, Dieter Gass, is aware that it will not be an easy challenge for his drivers and teams this weekend, with an abrasive track that has limited potential for overtaking as seen in years past.
“Last year – not least due to the performance weights – we stayed below our expectations at Zandvoort. It would be great to recover our former strength,” he explained, as Audi looks to increase its current win tally at Zandvoort, which stands at eight so far since the circuit made its début on the DTM calendar in 2001.
“This is a ‘real’ race track that doesn’t forgive many mistakes.