Five-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier is predicting that his début in the DTM this weekend will be ‘quite stressful’ as he adapts not only to a new car, but also to circuit racing, of which he has little experience.
Like Mattias Ekström at the start of the season and Alessandro Zanardi in Italy, Ogier will be making a guest appearance in the DTM this year.
Racing a Mercedes-Benz AMG C-Coupé, Ogier will join the DTM in Australia to form a 19-car grid for the penultimate round of the season.
Having already sampled DTM machinery, the Frenchman admits that he felt like he had gone back in time as he faced learning so many new things about the car.
“I was favourably impressed by a lot of things,” explained Ogier of his first time in the car. “It was a very different experience from driving my rally car. It felt like I’d been transported back to my childhood, like I was getting a new toy – I tried to have fun and find the limit.
“Two of the biggest differences compared to my rally car are certainly the braking and the cornering speeds. But it’s very difficult to [pick the best part], because I liked almost everything.”
Ogier admits that he is going into the race weekend at the Red Bull Ring somewhat unprepared, as he has had to also focus on his WRC season.
“I haven’t made any special preparations for the race weekend, but as soon as I’m at the track, I’m sure I’ll have a lot of questions for my engineers and team-mates. After all, I haven’t internalised the procedures for the race weekend to the same extent as everyone else, so I will have to feel my way into it.
“It will certainly be quite stressful for me, but before it really gets underway, I will try to absorb as much information as possible.
With the 34-year-old’s pace being a complete unknown, Ogier admits that his priority is to stay out of trouble against competition that know their cars and each other significantly better than he does.
“I think I will be facing quite a few challenges. My objective is to have a clean and flawless weekend. That would be a good achievement from my perspective.
“Everyone knows that I don’t have a lot of experience in circuit racing – I’m simply not used to it. Consequently, I will be trying to keep up as best I can. I also know how difficult it is to get the tyres into the right operating window.
“Maybe the new rules will work for me a bit, because everyone is lacking experience in this regard. There are so many new things that I have to pay attention to that I can expect challenges in every area.”
Ogier is not the first rally driver to take on the DTM – German WRC title winner Walter Röhrl also contested races with Audi in the 1990 and 1991 seasons. And the WRC’s most successful driver – Sébastien Loeb – also took part in touring car racing in the WTCC between 2014 and 2015.