The DTM is celebrating its return to Italy this weekend (24th – 26th August 2018). At the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, there will be two firsts for races 13 and 14 of the 2018 season.
For the first time in its long history, the DTM will include night races.
The former Formula 1 driver and multiple Paralympics champion Alex Zanardi, will be driving as a guest starter for the BMW team.
“In my long career, I’ve often prepared for the next big race, and knew I was one of the favourites to win possibly,” said the 51-year-old Italian ahead of his home race on the Adriatic coast.
“This is different this time, but it is no less exciting to be driving at the highest level once again. I can not wait to start the engine of my BMW M4 DTM. I’m looking forward to a spectacular race weekend in front of my home crowd. I hope that the night races in Misano will be an unforgettable experience for everyone.”
Zanardi changes from a hand-bike to a racing car, just two weeks after winning a silver and a bronze medal at the Para-cycling Road World Championship in Maniago (Italy).
For most of the 18 drivers, the 4.226-kilometre ‘Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli’ represents a new challenge.
“I’m looking forward to Misano, there’s a whole new and difficult challenge that awaits us,” said Gary Paffett. “We don’t know the track yet. Maybe during the night, my experience of the 24-hour race in Spa will help me?”
“Nevertheless, it is going to difficult. My goal for this weekend is to take a good number of points and extend my lead in the championship.”
The 37-year-old British driver leads the drivers’ standings with 177 points ahead of fellow Mercedes Benz driver Paul Di Resta who is on 144 points.
Mercedes-AMG is currently dominating the season in the DTM. The key to their success lies in qualifying. Gary Paffett clinched the eighth pole in a row for the Mercedes-AMG drivers at Brands Hatch last time out. A record in the DTM.
In the 12 DTM races so far this season, only the BMW drivers Timo Glock and Philipp Eng could prevent the Stuttgart squad from taking pole. On all of the other starting grids, a Mercedes started in the first position, and in 11 of the 12 races, at least two Mercedes-AMG drivers made it onto the first two rows.
With 12 of the 20 races contested, Marco Wittmann (110 points) is third in the championship standings and consequently the best-placed BMW driver.
“I’m looking forward to Misano. It’s virgin soil for me, and the entire meeting will be a real spectacle,” said the German. “It will be the first night race in DTM, and the entire daily routine will differ. It’s great that Alex Zanardi is also joining the BMW squad to contest the two DTM races. This will be special for him and even more so for all his fans.”
While the 2014 and 2016 DTM Champion will race at Misano for the first time, Philipp Eng already knows the circuit from the Blancpain GT Sprint Series. “This will be a cool event,” he said. “Both in 2016 and 2017, the Saturday race was held at night and made for very spectacular pictures. It also was fantastic for us drivers, and in the DTM car, it arguably will be even better. I think that you will see a lot of glowing brake discs and flaming exhaust pipes.”
At Audi, the reigning champion has gained a lot of momentum. René Rast is the man of the hour.
In the previous three races, the Audi driver scored a total of 54 points, even more than Gary Paffett (50) and Paul Di Resta (42). With 77 points to his name, the German now is ninth in the championship. By coming home in fourth place on the Saturday and a podium on the Sunday of the Brands Hatch meeting, he is on a roll.
Rast has already raced at Misano with Audi’s GT3 vehicle, the R8 LMS, as have fellow Audi drivers Robin Frijns and Jamie Green. “Most of the corners are medium-fast, with the mega-fast corner at the end of the lap being the only exception,” said Rast.
Misano’s circuit is perfect for night racing. The track is illuminated by 22 permanent lamp posts, and for DTM, four additional flood-lights were installed, at the pit-lane exit and in corners 4, 5 and 14. The circuit was inspected and approved by DMSB a few months ago. During this process, Audi’s Jamie Green tested the illuminated circuit at night with a production car.
Due to the night races, the schedule has been changed. The first practice session on Friday will begin at 21:30hrs CEST (20:30 BST), the qualifying session on Saturday and Sunday at 20:00hrs CEST (19:00 BST). And the two races on Saturday and Sunday will be started at 22:30 CEST (21:30 BST).
The support programme features the FIA Formula 3 European Championship featuring top-class young guns such as Mick Schumacher, Marcus Armstrong and Daniel Ticktum, as well as the Audi Sport Seyffarth R8 LMS Cup.