Two days to learn how to change jobs. Having just gotten off the Ducati at Mugello, after his epic battle with Petrucci and Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso doubles on the wheels, replaces his leather suit with a fireproof one, and will drive a car race.
And what a car! He'll be participating in Misano, as a guest star, during the Italian stage of the DTM, the German Touring Carmasters Championship. Despite its name, it's a sort of European championship with cars, more like prototypes than sedans. The cars in the DTM are the racing version of sportier street coupés. In this case, Audi RS5, BMW Z4, and Aston Martin Vantage.
They're the same as the road versions in appearance, but the analogy ends here because the DTM cars have a much more rounded and enlarged body for aerodynamic purposes and lots of F1 technology: carbon chassis, DRS, and push-to-pass (a control software that gives an extra 30 hp injection), which helps when overtaking. The engines are all 4-cylinder, in-line, 2-liter turbos boosted to almost 600 horsepower. It's like the Superbikes of cars.
Dovizioso, who will race with an official Audi RS5, had just two days to learn to drive these monstrous cars. Here's how he tells it.
"I did two test days, one on the private Audi track and one at Misano," he said. "Fortunately, I was followed by Ekstrom, a former Audi DTM driver who is a friend and my tutor. The car is impressive because it's very powerful but difficult to drive: it has so much power at the bottom and the horsepower is difficult to handle. My experience with bikes, even if I know the track, is of no use here. With the MotoGP, you have to take the turns softly, you have time to prepare the exit and accelerate thoroughly. However, everything here is different: you have to cut dry on the curb and open wide immediately. And then there are a thousand things I have to learn: how and when to use the DRS well, then the push-to-pass, then find sensitivity with the downforce that crushes the car to the ground in fast corners.”
Dovizioso also experienced some scary moments in the first tests. "Not exactly fear, no, but anxiety," he confessed. "It took 6 laps to learn how to fully ride the big turn in Misano. In MotoGP, we roll on the gas without braking, but with the DTM cars, we enter at full throttle and, at the beginning, your heart's in your throat. I struggled to get the right confidence.”
But Dovi's biggest difficulty, just like the Ferrari in F1, will be in making the tires work. “In the DTM, electric blankets are not allowed and, after the mid-race pit stop, you take off again with cold tires. It'll be the most complicated thing for me. With cold tires, it's difficult to find the grip limit. Both for turning and for braking. It's even more difficult than a pole."