Bien avant de s’illustrer chez McLaren, Ferrari ou Renault en F1, Patrick Tambay...
Q & A with Adrien TAMBAY on his DTM AUDI seasons, by Nicolas GEHIN
Q & A with Adrien Tambay, by Nicolas Gehin
NG: For those who don’t know it yet, or not very well, the DTM. How would you describe this car and its behavior?
AT: It has the look of a production car, a GT, but it’s actually a car. Including braking technology, very close. It reminded me more than a F3, Audi R8 GT3 for example.
NG: How can a car have a head and a sedan car behavior ?
AT: It’s halfway between a car and a prototype . The reason is simple. Everything is carbon , there is a lot of aero ground effects , a rear diffuser . In short, nothing to do with a car for everyday or a GT like a WTCC . The only real difference with F3 is the weight. As it is heavier, you have to keep the brakes a little longer to stop the inertia.
NG: It seems that now the race cars resemble more and more ?
AT: That’s not fake! All cars are becoming increasily sophisticated , they have many members in common (carbon). The adjustment variables are now indisputably the weight and power. And DTM has got a weight, certainly, but also the power !
NG: What is the true specificity of driving a DTM ?
AT: In these cars there is a real contradiction that make them specials. There is a mixing roll ( moving car ), but also rigidity. There’s a very tough rule on the bottom, suspensions, for mechanical and aero , but still it rolls into the turn because it is heavy. Have to get the grip in the corners. This is what I love.
NG: Why this choice of the DTM ?
AT: Racing is my passion. I love driving . So I looked at the championships where I could earn my life. As in others, you must provide a budget. I immediatly liked DTM. This is a historic championship but still growing. For me, at the top of the display of motorsport, there is F1 and DTM. There has been looks from the Japanese , but the real concrete appointments were held with the DTM.
NG: What could make you hesitate?
AT: Being a bit isolated. There are no other French DTM . Even if there has been in the past, as Alesi , Aïello …
NG: What motivated you more?
AT: The fierce competition and the fact that when one is right in DTM , he is good in prototypes and vice versa. He is even good in F1 ! Watch Di Resta .
NG: How have you earned your place in Audi?
AT: The term is well chosen. I won my place. Dr. Ullrich called me to Monte Bianco end of November 2011. He was honest with me . He wanted to know what I was worth , but there was no tub available for the 2012 season. We were three. I have been the fastest. I have not heard about for two months, until the end of January . I gnawed my nails because I had no wheel. But I hoped something was going to move in my favor. Audi Sport boss sent me an invitation, by email, for a new test. With something new this time. They decided to hire a car for the eighth season ahead. Anyway, I had my chance! Eight other drivers were thinking like me. It clashed for two days. Qualifying simulation , racing. Eight candidates initially , five were eliminated. And finally, I won !
NG: What makes this championship really attractive?
AT: That almost all cars can sign a podium. Many car can win. Many drivers can be champions. Not common.
NG: Adrien, who are you ?
NG: What do you remember of your first race at Hockenheim in 2012 ?
AT: I didn’t want to touch anyone ! I was a little scared in the squad, to be too aggressive or not aggressive enough . Karting years teach to you to fight in tight battles but with a car, you learn not to put bumpers or wheels shots.
NG: So, how have you to drive? Wheel shots or not?
AT: The problem is that when you put, in general it’s easy to make too ! And if you don’t make, you’re sure not doing enough and therefore , everyone passes you . This is what happened to me during my first two races . Once I was pushing too much, once I was not attacking enough, and finally a pilot harpooned me twice. It is all a question of balance. I had found it partly in late 2012. Early 2013 , I plunged , before returning to the magic recipe. In Russia, I got the most beautiful overruns of my DTM career .
NG : Physically, were you ready?
AT: I am preparing for a long time . I train a lot. But it is true that I drooled at the beginning . The AutoGP races lasted 45 min, the DTM course lasts twice as long .
NG: The physics is really important?
AT: Yes. Otherwise you make mistakes. This is precisely what happened to me at first. As I was struggling physically , I made full of small mistakes. I panicked a little. Finally, I progressed over the races and now I’m even pretty good performing consistant races.
NG: How to set-up a DTM car ?
AT: We still have more freedom than F3, known to be the best school development series . This has changed a bit this year. The DTM has decided to freeze parts of the car, to reduce costs. Despite this, the car changes with each race. It is on a pace of development which is the only one who can stand comparison with the F1 . For settings, working on the ride height , camber, tire pressures , geometries .
NG: What is the most difficult side development ?
AT: The weekends are short , we drive less and less . There is a basic setting before we even roll and then refined. But we have only a free session !
NG: What is your ideal setting car?
AT: I like to brake late . This is the basis for me. Everything starts from here . I need confidence on the brakes. So understeer help me a bit in the slow corners to turn the car. However, I do not like understeer in fast ones. Otherwise, it limits the input speed.
NG : Is there a time when you felt having turned a corner ?
AT: Yes. The last three races of 2012. Once I finished 5th and once 2nd . Before that, mentally , I had a slight lack of confidence. Now I know that my place is in the top 7 .
NG: Which was your best race in DTM ?
AT: The Nürburgring this year, as Zandvoort . But especially Russia . I started 14th, I’ve recorded the fastest lap and finished 4th .
NG: Which are your strenghts, according to yourself ?
AT: Last year , I gave up 4 times. Against one this year. And, especially at the end , I finished consecutively four races in the points . I was more consistant and had more presence in the Top 7 .
NG: Where have you to improve?
AT: The league debut . As I don’t drive during winter , I started mid way championships . And it has quite consequences thereafter . However, I finished very well.
NG: Audi suffered for two years, even if they won the title this year with Rockenfeller .
AT: In early 2012, after the design of the new car A5, it was thought to be better than it was. After some time, we realized that the car was not bad but sometimes it worked when you didn’t expect it and then it didn’t work when a good performance was expected. I experienced full sessions where I clocked excellent times on a Saturday morning and couldn’t do so on that Saturday afternoon! The car was yet the same. The DTM is so tight that nothing makes a big difference. Everything depends on the track conditions … A bit like in F1, with the so-called operating windows .
NG: Which drivers impressed you most in DTM ?
AT: In the Audi’s family , the level is so high that it’s hard to stick to one! Obviously , we must speak of the 2013 champion, Mike Rockenfeller . It is fast, constant. And very strong in settings. In the end, I took his settings and everything worked better. He understood many things before us. And besides, it’s a nice guy!
NG: What is Audi’s return on your performances ?
AT: It is always difficult to know what people think of you! But I think they are happy. It goes well. We talk a lot. I fell happy at Audi . They are professionals and humans!
NG: The DTM has often been criticized for being too political . In short, Mercedes decides who wins the championship , and so do Audi or BMW. Everything being played before the race at a briefing in… do you suffer it?
AT: The political side of the DTM is always exaggerated by some drivers . First, motor sport is politics! There are big issues and not only among major manufacturers. Personally, I take this question very simply . I have no reluctance to help a teammate in a better position than me for the championship. It would be stupid to play against his camp. Now, all this is possible because we know that one day we’ll be too in the same situation, helped by our classmates. Audi is there for win, and they know how to return the favor . So, it’s important for me, as I said earlier, to start my best championship in 2014. If, in the first three races, I push strong, it could bring me a lot of support at the end of the championship. Everything is healthy, clear and open at Audi.
NG: DTM applied many F1 rules. As DRS or both type of tires … This fact has changed much things for you?
AT: Yes, it has rather helped us and didn’t hurt me successful . Especially having two types of tires, hard and soft , that must fit at least once . Races have become more strategic . Tire wear is a big factor in performance. And I must say that this suits me well . I can make long runs to stay longer on the track with lesser degradation.
NG: Did you go at a time close to victory ?
AT: There was, yes, once or twice, when something was putting in place for a great result. From the outside , maybe, it wasn’t seen. In Russia and Germany, with the rain. I managed for a time to double the virtual leader. Unfortunately, the track dried . A thought crossed my mind… if I won?
NG: What are your goals for the 2014 season?
AT: I had set a two-year program to learn. I’ve reached the end. I feel ready to aim higher. Win, I don’t know, but playing outposts throughout the season. Let the Top 5. But I keep my feet on the ground. The DTM is a hyper-competitive championship! Mortara, an excellent driver, was fifth last year with 2 wins, and in 2013, he finished last. His quality hasn’t changed. So I will do my best.
NG: Do you speak German?
AT: No, but I’ll start. This is important. I’m progressing.
NG: Do you still think to F1? You rode with Grosjean, Bianchi …
AT: No, not at all. I think the DTM.
NG: And the 24 Hours of Le Mans?
AT: Audi is the reference to Le Mans. As part of the Audi family, obviously this is a personal goal. I’ve never rode in a Le Mans prototype. But I would.
NG: Do the French Audi endurance give you their advise?
AT: Loïc Duval is this years’ WEC champion. I’m happy for him. I already knew him through a mutual friend, Jean-Karl Vernay. Benoit Treluyer, however, I don’t know him much. We occasionally meet in physical fitness courses in Austria … We can talk. They are examples for me.
NG: Will you be someday a DTM champion?
AT: It’s not impossible! I believe I can and will do everything for it.
NG: What would be the ideal schedule for it?
AT: Win one or two races in 2014, be efficient and in constant progress and still win multiple times in 2015, and aim for the title in 2016, I’m ready!