Maro Engel: “The last two races of the season were by far the worst of my DTM career”

Credit: DTM Media

In 2017 Marco Engel returned to the DTM Series after a five year absence from the series.

The Mercedes driver finished fifteenth in the championship scoring 51 points over the season, claiming victory in the second race at the Moscow Raceway.

Engel competed in the series in 2008 to 2011 with the DTM machinery changing drastically damaging in his five year absence.

“It took a lot of getting used to, for sure, but driving the latest generation of vehicles is just magic. They’re much faster, and a lot has has happened in the DTM since I first took part, from 2008 to 2011. I ended 2011 as the best driver of a one-year-old Mercedes. However, I suffered from myocarditis during the second half of the season and had a tough time. The last two races of the season were by far the worst of my DTM career. I was sweating a lot more and couldn’t explain my lack of performance.”

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle which can be caused by: a viral, bacterial or fungal infection, a chest infection, an autoimmune disease, or sometimes the cause is unknown. In prolonged cases it might affect the heart muscle and tissue, meaning it could develop into heart failure.

“I first noticed feeling exhausted during a rollout. I was completely out of breath afterwards. I came back into the pits, and it was just like I’d been racing on the limit for hours. After that, I thought I needed to rest up a bit more, which was dead right, because there’s no medicine for heart muscle inflammation. You just need to sleep and get better. I was pretty well able to get through the races, but only by resting completely and sleeping during the week. Finally, I was out walking the dog and was totally out of breath if I had to climb any stairs.

“The myocarditis really affected me in the last two races. I was in the Top Ten in most races but only managed fifteenth and fourteenth place in Valencia and Hockenheim. When you’ve got this problem, the heart muscle gets inflamed, because it’s being attacked by bacteria. It’s an acute condition. I just wasn’t aware of it at the time, otherwise no doctor in the world would have let me race. I didn’t get the diagnosis until November after the season had ended. I was always out of breath and left wondering why I never had any energy. I slept for ages every day, took a nap, and went to bed early in the evenings. That was the only way I was able to race at all.”

The end of the season could not have come sooner for Engel who used the time away from racing to get himself back to full health but it would not be an easy recovery for the German.

“It was almost like starting from scratch, but I was soon fit again. After that, I went to the hospital a few more times, because obviously, I was more on the ball then, but it turned out that everything was alright. What I’ve learned is that the most important thing is to know your body and to listen to it. You don’t have to push yourself hard in every training session and follow the plan religiously just to say you’ve done it. If you wear yourself out, you’ve not gained anything at the end of the day. As a racing driver, you train in order to be able to concentrate better and for longer. You can’t do that if you turn up for a race weekend and you’re completely done in. You have to be fresh. Racing is a discipline that demands the utmost concentration. That’s the be-all and end-all.”

Engel is not yet confirmed in Mercedes’ 2018 DTM line up – the Stuttgart placed outfit’s final in the DTM –  however, he has joined Venturi GP with DTM team-mate Edoardo Mortara.