Redbull hangár

Redbull hangár

2010. november 6., szombat

Norisring – the street track of the DTM

Interview with David Coulthard and Katherine Legge

Text and photos: Gabriella

I usually visit one or two DTM races a year, because of its unique atmosphere. This year, after mature deliberation, I chose Norisring, which has many reasons. On the one hand it has been the permanent and (mostly) the only street race in the calendar and it seemed always very interesting on TV with its hairpin bend. The additional reason was, that it’s very easy to reach it even without a car, as it is not in the middle of a prairie in contrast with other racetracks. Moreover, somebody, who’s name is Ferenc, had keep invited me already in last year – I tell you more about him later. Otherwise I planned to visit the Norisring race already last year, but the Austrian military airshow (Airpower 09) was held on the same weekend and I chose that. Well, sometimes it’s not easy when somebody’s manias cover each other.
Nürnberg old town
The city

I arrived to Nürnberg on Friday afternoon. Lufthansa has a good flight combination via Frankfurt, which is comfortable, but with a very tight transfer time to Nürnberg. I had a 10 minutes sprint to the other end of the terminal – Frankfurt Airport is a large one and I’m not a Ben Johnson. Nor the stevedores, so they couldn’t tranship my luggage to the other plane during such a short time. It wasn’t that surprising, as I thought, that it is physically impossible. (It’s against the rule of  speed :-) At least I didn’t have to carry my suitcase by myself, but the employee of the airline. He’s just got to the hotel, when I arrived back from sightseeing in the evening, so the the timing was perfect.

Nürnberg’s old town - which is sorrounded by a stone wall - is amazing. The Pegnitz river cuts it right in the middle, and standing on its bridge, it’s reminded me to the little towns of South-England. I was hardly waiting to the appearance of the swans. The old-like buildings are beautiful. Just old-like, ’cos nearly all of the orignal medieval houses were bombed in the II. World War, which is not so surprising, as it was one of  Hitler’s favourite nets. It’s a miracle, that the monumental, football stadium-like nazi party headquarters survived; I saw it on the other shore of the lake, which was beside the Audi media hospitality building.
I will came back here once in the near future, that’s for sure and then I look at the Dürer museum and the Tucher patrician house. The city guide says, that at these places, actors in period dress guide the visitors, as if they went back into the past and would be the guests of the family who lived there. This time I had to miss this experience, because it was almost closing time when I get there. Instead of it, I walked around in the old town, clibmed up to the castle, then I sat into a Bratwürsthause at the Rathausplatz to a portion Bavarian grilled sausages (this is the bratwürst) with cabbage and I tried out the local schnaps and Tucher dark beer. (I don’t know if there’s a relationship between the beer brand and the medieval patrician family with the same name.)

The Bratwürsthause
 It was a perfect combination! I was totally relaxed by the end of the day, thanks to the real summer weather, the historical surroundings, the good dinner and smiley, senior aged locals. The weekend began definitely well.

The track

Before my vist, I was under the delusion that the Norisring is very similar the F1 track in Monaco, so Timo Scheider and his colleagues race along the separated streets of the inner city. When I watch it on tv, I have never recognized, that there’s no houses beside the track, as the races were always so exciting, that it’s totally catch my attention. Although I’ve checked and the tracks official website, there was no information about the fact, that the Norisring track is in the suburb of Nürnberg, in the area of a stadion. It’s not like the Race of Champions is Paris, because the track can be found outside of the stadion building. But what is situated around the track! Every participant car brand has at least 2 tents (bigger brands have rather glass-palaces) on a very large place. I usually navigate myself very well, especially when I have a map, but what I got in the media accreditation container at the entrance (when I picked up my media pass), didn’t help at all, moreover, I totally lost my way, didn’t know where I am and where is North. Therefore, to find the media center inside, took 45 minutes after asking 5 trackmen. I began to find my way around, when my friends Thorsten (I guess the best DTM reporter in the world and has a many years local knowledge) and Anja (his photographer and girlfriend in one) has arrived on Saturday late morning.

Anja, Thorsten and me- photo by Johann van de Kerkhof

Thank goodness, the main tribune (the Steintribüne) wasn’t far from the media centre, so I’ve found it by myself. The big concrete colossus provide a unique view to the starting grid and the pit lane, but if we climb up to the top, we can check the actions behind the tribune. If we go to the left end, we can see the last corner before the main straight, and if we sit on the other end of the granstand, we can see very closely the peak of the legendary hairpin bend. That’s why I guess - despite there is 6 additional tribunes - this is the best one, because with some motion, we can see the whole track. After I discovered it on Saturday, I stand to the bottom of the big building on the top of this grandstand, where remained some shadow. It has disappeared by 11 o’clock, so I went back to the media centre. I raise my hat to the spectators, who sat there from morning in the blazing sun (35 degrees) on both days. And just some of them had a parasol.

Some technical and other interests

If I mentioned the sweltering heat, I tell you two tecnical solutions, which I heard about there. I wouldn’t state that they are applied only in DTM, but I’ve never heard of them before.
Maybe this thing which was launched last year is not so well known. In the heatwave, the engines of the raceing cars are cooled on the starting grid by ventillators which are fixed to the front by a triangle cantilever. Of course it’s removed before the start, otherwise it would ruin the aerodyonamics.
The other smart trick is the 7 litres watertank. Its purpose to cool the brake discs if they become too hot: the driver can squirt some water onto them during the pit stop with pushing a button on the steering wheel.
I also mentioned the Race of Champions event. This series will also have something similar next year. The stars of the DTM and the participants of the partner series will race against each other in the Müchen Olympic Stadium, on a specially formed asphalt track to make the series even more popular.
You can find more info about the event on this link:

Soccer versus DTM

During the raceweekend, the soccer world championship were also held and the German team was still in the game. It illustrated the atmosphere well, that flags were waving not just in every second window in the city, but their smaller versions could be seen on the cars. Furthermore, the passangers have been informed about the match results on the suburban trains by the driver. The DTM spectators were spacially dressed: the German national eleven’s strip replica with DTM cap. I swear, that I even saw (and hear) a vuvuzela. The organizers weren’t silly. To avoid the early leaving of the spectators because of the matches, they placed large srceens on the grass around the track (of course close to the vendor tents), on which the matches could be seen in live.Therefore, many DTM fans stayed there after the end of the programme. The DTM weekend was so ruled by soccer, that even a press conference was postponed to after the match of the German team. My biggest experience regarding the soccer world cup was watching the Germany-Argentina match with Germans. There was a hurrah and laughing everytime, when Maradona’s team made mistakes. Of course, the DTM aces were often asked about soccer by the reporters. I guess they were close to madness, when they got the question thousand time, that if they like soccer and if they think that the German team will win the cup…

The aces of DTM

DC (on the right)

Maybe the strongest name of this season (from a marketing point of view) was David Coulthard. The hiring of the Scotsman had been a rumour since he left Bernie’s travelling circus, but Mercedes could presuade him to drive for them just in this year. He wasn’t bored in the one year long brake. Worked for BBC as a commentator at the F1 races, as a Red Bull ambassador, participated in promotion events, and his son was born in the meantime.
DC looks very well. If it is possible, he’s even more laid back than in F1, he is in a good physical condition and still very friendly. It seems, that he feels himself very well here. I was lucky to make several interviews with him in the past, but this time he shined his good sense of humour, which has been unknown for me before. As it was a round-table interview, just a few questions were possible, but I guess, a valuable dialogue was born. Here it comes:

Gabi: What was the main reason of your return to racing and why did you choose DTM?
DC: Mostly the adrenalin was what I missed. Besides it, I’ve always had a good relationship with Mercedes, who egged me very much to drive for them in DTM. Finally, I accepted their offer, because I meditated on, that I will turn to 40 next year, and maybe one or two good years remained for me, so I should take this opportunity. Of course, there are some, who are very active on the racetrack even over 40, but not everyone is Michael Schumacher – laughs.
Gabi: What was the most unexpected and most surprising experince for you regarding DTM?
DC: The speed of the cars. It’s unbelievable, but they are as fast as the Formula 3 cars. And if I’m right, the F3 cars are right after the F1 cars on the British Autosport Magazine racecar series speed-ranking list.
Gabi: You can be seen in Red Bull promotion events very often as the passanger of extreme vehicles, last time you sat behind Hannes Arch aerobatics world champion. Isn’t it a bad feeling, that somebody else drives and you are jus waiting passively what will happen?
DC: No, because I can drive enough here in DTM. Otherwise I enjoy this events even just like a passanger. You know, it’s like sex: sometimes it’s not bad to let your partner drive.

After I heard this last sentence, it took a 1-2 milseconds to comprehend, that he answered exactly what I heard. And guffawing has broken out from the colleagues around the table. I haven’t imagined this kind of humour regarding DC before…

My other interviewee was Katherine Legge. (If her name is familiar for you, maybe it is beause she tested for Minardi in F1 some years ago.) I chose her, because on the one hand she is one of the two ladies on the grid and on the other hand, I had the anticipation, that this cool girl have something in the store for me. It will turn out from the following conversation, that I was right.

Gabi: Did you dream about racing when you were a little girl?
Katherine: No, I wanted to be a jet pilot at first (Gabi got amazed), but my eyesight is not perfect, so I wouldn’t have been suited physically. When I got 9, I was already interested in autosport with the goal to enter Formula One, and my idol was Nigel Mansell. I would have not think, that it is possible, because you need a very strong financial bacground to get on to the junior series, and my family wasn’t rich. But we collected the necessary money somehow in the end, partly from loan. I tested an F1 car finally, raced in CART, Le Mans and Monaco are still on my wishlist. I didn’t give up entering F1 yet, but in the meantime I realized, that it’s not enough if you keep on trying and has a big experience, only money what counts – even if it sounds sardonically. But I’m happy with the small time what I could spend in F1 and my life is about racing in 24 hours a day, which is not bad at all.
Gabi: You and Susie Stoddart are the only ladies on the grid. Are you often compered with her?
Katherine: Yes, sometimes, but it’s not typical as we heve been here for some time past. Sometimes our relationship is quite friendly, but when we pile up on the track, then not that much. But it’s the same with the other competitors too.
Gabi: What does come up to your mind first when I mention Hungary?
Katherine: Judit Forró. (Former Hungarian single-seat driver.) We were good friends, when we raced together in Great-Britain. She is my only connection to Hungary, but I’ve never been there.
Gabi: What was your best experience in DTM so far?
Katherine: Last season began very well for me, I had good lap times in free practices and qualifyings, I felt myself competitive in the field. But everything went wrong later, I had problems with my car, therefore I had some catastrophic races. This year, I’ve been looking for the rhythm, but hopefully my race will be successful again tomorrow.
Gabi: Do the braking points really count that much on this track?
Katherine: I can say yes, because the 3 bends are very close to each other. So if you make a mistake in one of them, you can worsen you lap time very much. And in spite of there are only 3 curves, and for example not not 12, they are quite tricky, because the asphalt is very bumpy. Beside it, we’ve been racing whit new kind of tyres this season and as I have a lot of problem with them, I loose a lot of time. You have to provide a 100% performance on this track, and you can be satisfied if you reach 98%.

And how is Katherine face to face? Very likable, familiar, very determined in mind. I like her bitter sense of humour and felt in her coolness the years what she spent in the US. I guess, she doesn’t want to make a fuss, that she is a girl among the men, just would like to stand in the gap as a human. Otherwise she’s an attractive woman and that kind, who is a beauty without any optical tuning.

One more story regarding the drivers. I always mention among the best things of DTM, that it’s very close to people. There is no ado around the DTM drivers like in F1 (although this series also has a strong marketing engine). The teams and the organizers make a lot of events for the fans, where the drivers give hundreds of autographs patiently, burning the tyres and so on. They are not travelling by business jet or helicopter, but mainly by car or normal, scheduled flights. (You can see it only in WRC.) I could experienced it, when on my way home, I saw Gary Paffett sitting near at hand in the Nürnberg Airport’s waiting hall with some team members. (There’s no photo of it, as I didn’t want ot disturb him with flashing.)

Ferenc, the invisible man

And who is Ferenc, whom I mentioned in the prologue? He’s Ferenc Nagy, whom I met in Hockenheim last year. He raced in Volkswagen Polo Cup, which was a partner series of DTM. I saw his Hungarian family name when I checked the entry list and I asked for an interview via the VW PR department. During our chat it has turned out, that his father is Hungarian, but he was born in Germany. He told me, that the VW Polo Cup is his first serious challenge, because he was carting in the past. And of course his goal is F1! Otherwise it’s unbelievable, what a coaching could get the young drivers here. There were qualifying rounds before the season, to riddle the many (paying) candidates, as the raceseats were limited. The choosen ones had a physical an communication training, beside the driving training. The organizers didn’t let the youngsters’ hand off, they could always turn to someone if they needed help and every driver could analyse his performance with a race engineer after each race. I felt, that they could motivate the drivers very much, as if it wouldn’t have been enough, that they had a chance to learn and to jump out with this series. (I had this conclusion after I spoke with Ferenc and VW communication expert.) It’s a pity that this series is not anymore. Here it is a best of video about the Polo Cup 2009 season ( from Ferenc’aspect):

The communication with Ferenc didn’t end after the interview. He invited me to look at the Norisring race, which is his home track, as he lives in Nürnberg and where he will drove in the SEAT Leon Supercopa (unfortunately he had only to opportinities to sit into their car this year). I wrote to him that I would go, but it seems, that we need to develop our communication, as we met by chance when I went through in front of a SEAT tent – on the last afternoon.

Otherwise the guy is very young and ethusiast, and sometimes these two results full-throttle scud. And if the fellow competitors do the same, it ends like on the following norisring video:

He also returned to the roots this year: carting. It seems, that he will get a new chance to enter SEAT Leon Supercopa in the next season. I cheer for him. This is his own homepage, if you would like to learn more about him:

Ah, and the race

The reason why I left it to the end and why I don’t write a detailed report about it, is that I believe, that it’s better to watch it on the spot or on tv, and the results can be find on other websites. Which were the most interesting: Ralf Scumacher has got his first ever DTM pole position (in his third season) and he had a good chance for the victory, but unfortunately after his drive through penalty for jump start, it has flied away. (He said, that he was just trying the clutch – which sounds foolish.) The other memorable moment’s main character was Coulthard, whose front driver-side door came off in a crash, which wasn’t replaced by the team unaccountably (although it would have taken just 2 seconds to put on a new one) and nor the stewards order him off, so he finished the race in this condition. That’s for sure, that he wasn’t hot in the car, but it’s a big luck, that nobody crashed into him in a same way.

A flying adventure in the end

To add a new flying reference to the post, I tell you what happened to me on my way home. We ware sitting patiently on board in Frankfurt, luggages are transhipped (this time really), the plane is ready to take off. Suddenly the captain said into the microphone, that unfortunately we have to wait 20 minutes, because the airspace is closed above Frankfurt, so we cannot get the permission to start. He added, that it’s probably because of a NATO military excercise. Maybe it’s not necessary to tell you, that I was the only one on the plane who was happy to hear it and that I sticked to the window immediately and began to look out for the sky, to see and hear something. Obviously it happened very high in the sky, so I didn’t see the maneuvering jets, like in Nimes some years ago. (A Mirage was entertaining me and made the other passengers fear there, as it was practicing his display programme very low, right above the runways.) Even though I couldn’t apprehend anything from the supposed military excercise, I felt, that this small adventure on my way home was the cherry on the cream after the successful DTM weekend. I definitely plan further programmes like this.