Misano Preview: DTM’s Italian masterclass

Misano Preview: DTM’s Italian masterclass

Photo: Audi

Last year the DTM’s visit to Misano, Italy, was one of the most spoken about races of the year, and the 2019 edition looks to be no different.

The event was the first night races in DTM history, the first in Italy since 2010, and excitement is building ahead of the series’ return to the circuit in the Rimini Province.

With drivers looking to throw their hat in the ring, the third race weekend of the season gives the opportunity for the start of a serious title assault. Add to the mix hot ambient and track temperatures and the chance of rain on Sunday, the 18 regular competitors and guest driver, Ducati’s Andrea Dovisioso, will have to drive smart to score big at the Italian circuit.

Dovisioso will trade two wheels for four at Misano. Photo: Audi

The Track

Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, to give it it’s full title, is a circuit deceptively difficult. The 4.226km, 16 turn layout provides a mix of fast kinks, switchback chicanes and long hairpins that require a car to be stable at high speed and agile when changing direction.

With the new Class One regulations, the drivers will be able to take Turns 11 and 12 almost flat at near 280 kmh and with the assistance of DRS and push-to-pass, we may see some of the highest speeds all season.

There are a number of good overtaking opportunities, but moves are mostly made into the first corner, after the flat out run to T8, Quercia, and into the tight T14, Carro.

The track features extensive run-off areas that drivers utilise to gain lap time, often running all four wheels over the white line. Misano will be a stark contrast to the confines of Zolder, Belgium, that the series visited three weeks ago.

Misano has a challenging, high speed middle sector. Photo: Audi

Last Year

In 2018 Misano hosted the DTM’s first ever night races, and adding to the difficulty of driving under the cover of darkness was the influence of rain across the weekend.

R-Motorsport’s Paul Di Resta won race one, taking Mercedes’ last victory in the DTM before their departure, and then-rookie Joel Eriksson took his first and only win to-date for BMW Team RBM.

The races were high in drama, as a number of safety car interventions and wet-dry conditions induced battles throughout the running order.

Last year also saw former Formula One driver, and multiple Paralympic gold medallist Alex Zanardi take to the track in a modified BMW DTM car, and the Italian stormed to an emotional fifth place in race two.

Joel Eriksson taking his maiden DTM win. Photo: Audi

What to Expect

There is no doubt that the DTM will produce two races packed full of excitement from start to finish, even though the element of night-time racing will not be part of the spectacle this year.

The new DRS and push-to-pass rules have produced fantastic racing, and even at a track difficult to overtake, like Zolder, we saw some intense action. Drivers will have to manage their ammo to be able to attack and defend in the closing laps of the race.

An influential factor this year has been how drivers manage their tyres. As the more powerful Class One-spec cars use up the Hankook rubber faster than in previous years, there is an added importance on executing the optimum pitstop strategy.

Misano is typically tough on tyres, with high loads through the fast middle sector, as well as demanding on mechanical grip through the more twisty sections. Expect those lower down the starting grid to attempt alternate strategies, and potentially risk being on degrading rubber at the checkered flag.

Philipp Eng is the man to beat. Photo: BMW

As far as the championship goes BMW Team RMR’s Philipp Eng will be hoping to carry the good form that saw him take his maiden victory at Zolder, and a second place in race two to lead the championship with 59 points.

René Rast will be hoping to close the five point deficit to Eng by scoring in both races, as the Audi Sport Team Rosberg driver has failed to finish race one at both Hockenheim and Zolder.

BMW Team RMG driver Marco Wittmann will be pushing hard to close the 16 point gap to brand-mate Eng on his 100th DTM appearance, as Audi Sport Team Phoenix’s Mike Rockenfeller, and Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline driver Nico Müller aim to boost their championship challenge.

MotoGP star Andrea Dovisioso will be making a guest appearance, and will be hoping to repeat the performance of fellow Italian Alex Zanardi last year. The Ducati rider will have to quickly get to grips with the high-downforce DTM car if he is break into the top ten.

Race one takes place on Saturday at 13:30 CEST (12:30 BST), whilst race two is on Sunday at the same time.