Sheer excitement on the new asphalt in ValenciaCircuit in Spain with new surface and modified run-off areaHankook competition engineers anxious to find out about texture of new track surface
This weekend, the penultimate round in the battle for the DTM title is on and, like in 2011, the 4.005 kilometres long Circuit Ricardo Tormo near Valencia could be the venue where the champion will be crowned. Last year, a third-place finish for Martin Tomczyk (BMW), still driving an Audi at the time, was enough for an early title in the most popular international touring car series. This time, Mercedes-Benz driver Gary Paffett, who is leading the driversstandings with an eleven pointsmargin, has the best chances in the Spanish seaside city. However, even when he wins the race, the Brit still has to hope that his fiercest rival Bruno Spengler (BMW) doesnt finish higher than fifth.While the closing stage in the battle for the title is thrilling for drivers and fans, the renovation of the race track, which was only re-opened in early September, also creates maximum tension for the competition engineers of exclusive tyre partner Hankook. The track was completely resurfaced and only this weekend, insights into the texture of the new surface can be obtained.Last year, the track surface of the Circuit Ricardo Tormo provided little grip. The cars stared sliding, which resulted into a higher level of tyre wear. We are curious to find out whether this old surface has been replaced by a layer of asphalt that provides more grip,says Hankooks competition engineer Michael Eckert. When the grip level really is significantly higher, this would have an effect on the teamscar set-up. Michael Eckert: So far, the downforce generated by the aerodynamics had to replace a huge part of the mechanical grip. When this changes due to a new track surface with more grip, a completely different set-up can be used. As the tyre wear would considerably decrease at the same time, this would allow for longer stints and varied strategies.
As usual, the weather is also playing a major role at Valencia. Changeable conditions have been forecast for the weekend, which means an additional challenge for all teams and Hankooks engineers at the new track surface. Particularly in qualifying on Saturday, when fractions of a second often are decisive, set-up and strategy will be the main criteria for success.The Circuit Ricardo Tormos track lay-out is very demanding for the DTM drivers. With its nine left- and five right-hand corners, part of them banked and with different angles, the track is one of the toughest on the DTM calendar. The continuous changes of direction are making driving a hard job, particularly in difficult weather conditions. The flat kerbstones, on the other hand, are neither a problem for the cars nor for the Hankook competition tyres. During the renovation process, the gravel trap in the run-off area at the first corner has been replaced by an asphalt-covered run-off area. This is giving the drivers an opportunity to take an escape road outside the track in dense traffic.The grandstands along the Circuit Ricardo Tormo are located around the track, allowing spectators to follow the racing action like in a football stadium. This unique, stadium-like atmosphere could be a particular motivation for Roberto Merhi (Mercedes-Benz), who, as a rookie driver, is competing in a DTM race in his home country for the first time. At Oschersleben a fortnight ago, the Spaniard proved what he is up to. With 1.22.752 minutes, he not only set the fastest race lap, but also beat the lap record set by Audi driver Timo Scheider (Audi) from 2010 (1.22.991). With the support of his passionate fans, the local hero could perhaps score the first points of his DTM career in his home round.Competition tyres know-howThe competition tyres look very much similar to their road-legal counterparts, but their construction and compound is significantly different. Which are the particularly important components and characteristics with respect to the particular requirements of the tracks during the 2012 DTM season?Valencia: Asphalt texture/roughnessThe so-called micro-roughness (grains of up to 0.5 mm) of the track surface has a major effect on the grip of a tyre, while the macro-roughness (0.5 to 50 mm) is particularly important for the drainage in case of rain. The shape of the aggregate (rounded or broken) and the bitumen material also determine the roughness. New asphalt is often oiling, particularly in the sunshine, until it gradually cures and the bitumen layer is being fretted more and more due to the vehicles running over it.