Philipp Eng: “All you have to do is to drive as fast as possible around a circuit, Alex can do that with his eyes closed.”

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Alex Zanardi: 2018 DTM Series - Hungaroring
Credit: BMW Press Group Global

Ahead of his DTM Series debut at Misano later this month (24-26 August) Alex Zanardi has been given advice on what he is to expect.

The 51-year-old is once again steeping into uncharted territory where he will be faced with unfamiliar challenges.

ITR Chairman, Gerhard Berger is looking forward to the series heading to Misano, which in addition to Zanardi making his debut will be the first ever night race for the series.

The Austrian told BMW Motorsport“The DTM is really looking forward to this first at Misano; a night race, the  Adriatic coast, the Gianna Nannini concert and, on top of all that, the guest appearance by Alex Zanardi – it is going to be a very special motorsport festival at the end of August! We are really looking forward to it, and are intrigued to see how Alex will fare at the wheel of the BMW M4 DTM in what is a fiercely-competitive field in the DTM.

“Alex was at Budapest at the start of June to gain an impression of today’s DTM. It was clear to everyone there that he is approaching this with great joy and curiosity, but also with the necessary helping of ambition. As an IndyCar champion and multiple Olympic gold medallist, Alex is renowned for always being as well prepared and motivated as possible whenever he takes on his sporting challenges. This season’s races have shown emphatically that the DTM is a sporting challenge at the highest level.”

Zanardi’s BMW team-mates have also offered their opinions and advice to the Italian ahead of his first competitive DTM outing.

Third placed man in the championship standings, Timo Glock, said: “I still remember well that I actually had a really good feeling after the tests. Then I came to the first race – and everything was different. The challenge was not to be put off your stride. Everything is different at a DTM race weekend. The schedule is very tight. You certainly need to get used to that. However, I am sure that Alex will cope well at Misano.”

Bruno Spengler has experience of being team-mates with Zanardi having been teamed up with theItalian – along with Glock – for the 2015 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup 24 Hours of Spa.

As a result of this, Spengler understands the challenge which comes with switching from GT machinery to DTM.

“The BMW M4 DTM is completely different to a GT car. It is developed to the very highest standard. The cornering speeds are great fun, due to the high amount of downforce. It is also considerably lighter,” said Spengler. The temperatures in the cockpit are actually lower than in a GT car. It is a bit like driving a Formula car, but Alex knows all about that from former times. As such, I think he’ll have a lot of fun in the BMW M4 DTM.”

Zanardi has the added pressure of debuting at his home race. Double DTM champion, understands the pressure of one’s home race having finally stepped on to the podium at his home race of the Norisring earlier this year.

“A home race is always a bit special, because you have a lot of fans and supporters there. All your family and friends are also usually there to support you,” said Wittmann. “There is also a lot more interest from the media. The focus is firmly on you. If you are then successful, it is obviously even more fun. I obviously hope that Alex does well in his home races but, whatever happens, it will definitely be a very special event for him.”

Philipp Eng, is in his rookie DTM season and has been highly impressive thus far. The Austrian understands the pressure of coming into the championship and being expected to perform straight away.

“I believe that you cannot afford to let yourself be distracted too much by everything going on around you. All you have to do is to drive as fast as possible around a circuit. And Alex can do that with his eyes closed.”

It is not just team-mates that are offering their support and to Zanardi ahead of his debut, but his rivals also spoke to BMW about the Italian.

Championship leader Gary Paffett was one such person.

“I used to watch Alex racing in IndyCar,” said the Briton. “He was an incredibly successful and fast driver there until the accident he had at the Lausitzring, which was tragic, really. But since then he has been really inspirational. To come back like he has and to compete at the level he has in many disciplines is an inspiration to anyone and just shows his passion and drive for motorsport and for competing.

“For him to come and drive and race and compete for one weekend in the DTM is amazing. It is such a competitive series that I think coming in is going to be incredibly tough for him, but he is obviously up for the fight and I am looking forward to seeing him on track at Misano. Again, it’s just really amazing that he has made that sort of choice and has the chance to come and race in the DTM with us.”

Earlier this year, Mattias Ekström took part in a guest appearance for Audi so understands the pressures a driver faces when they step into a car for just one weekend.

Ekström, was granted the opportunity after announcing his retirement from the series to say farewell to his fans.

“I thought it was cool to start as a guest driver,” said Ekström. “I wanted to bid farewell to my fans and was able to put my foot down and have fun without feeling any pressure. The race results were really not that significant.”

Another driver will be making a guest star this year, with Sébastien Ogier stepping into the Mercedes at the Red Bull Ring.

The DTM is in action this weekend, 11-12 August, at Brands Hatch for the sixth round of the season.

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An NCTJ accredited Journalism Graduate covering DTM and the FIA Formula 3 Championship.
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