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Engel: Tire Strategy in Sunday Race “50/50 Call”

Maro Engel reckons choosing the right tire in changeable conditions at Red Bull Ring was “a gamble”…

Photo: DTM

Maro Engel said the tire strategy during Sunday’s rain-affected DTM race at the Red Bull Ring was a “50/50 call”, with teams split on slicks or wet tires for the second phase of the contest.

The second race of the weekend began under wet conditions that caused many drivers to struggle, but the track began to dry as the race progressed and as teams began to call their drivers in for their mandatory stops.

Teams opted for varying strategies, with some opting to send their drivers out with a second set of rain tires. Other teams, particularly the ones that pitted later, gambled on slicks.

The differing strategies resulting in a rapidly changing order towards the closing laps of the race.

Engel, who had opted for slicks, notably charged up from outside the top five to finish third in the closing minutes.

In contrast, race winner Thomas Preining pitted one lap before Engel and swapped his used set of wet tires for a new one.

“I was never really struggling for grip, to be honest,” said Preining.

“In the beginning I was just taking it a bit easy because the visibility was quite terrible.

“I could not see anything. I was just hanging around somewhere in seventh or eighth.

“Once I started to actually see where I was going, I managed to do some cool overtakes and within half an hour I think we were leading the race and managed to pull a gap.

“The strategy was fantastic after and I think switching back to wets was the right call, the safe call. It all worked out.”

Engel, for his part, had anticipated that the track would dry out thus enabling a switch to slick tires.

“I was quite confident early on in the race that it would dry [out],” Engel said.

“I said on lap five to my team that I thought it was going to be a dry finish.”

Engel recognized that the situation was a difficult for teams, likening it to a roll of the dice.

“I was hoping for it to dry quicker, because I think the pace was just getting better and better compared to the other cars.

“It’s a gamble and I think it was a 50/50 call. In the end, we still got a good result out of it.”

Engel, who started from pole position in the No. 88 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, began to fade away towards the end of his stint and felt that a switch to slicks was the only way to regain lost ground by that stage of the race.

The German, along with Arjun Maini was the last driver to pit before the pit window closed.

“We committed to going long and going on the slicks basically when we didn’t cover off Luca [Stolz] as one of the first stoppers.

“And then we knew that obviously virtually a lot of cars had jumped us as we went through the painful laps on the high pressure rain tires.

“We knew we had to wait and the only chance to come back was the slick tire at the end.

“I dropped behind a whole lot of cars as I exited pitlane. That was probably a little bit of a key [factor].

“I think if I would have had a bit more clear air, I could have been closer but at the end of the day this is one of those races where you roll the dice.

“I think in the end, we made the right decision.”

Preining, Stolz Caught Out By Drying Track

As Engel predicted, a drying track surface then allowed him to make quick progress past some of the drivers that had opted to pit for a second set of wets earlier on.

Preining and second-placed Luca Stolz, who were both on their second set of wets, were surprised at the rate the track surface dried towards the end of the race.

With ten laps to go, I thought ‘okay, this should be manageable,'” said Stolz, who was first to pit and initially made rapid progress on his second set of tires.

“But then it started to dry out so quick, especially sector two and sector three was almost a full dry line.

“I did a little rain dance and was just hoping that the tire remained in one piece. But in the last two laps it started drizzling again a little bit, which was good for us too, obviously.”

Preining, for his part, feared that he had lost his shot at victory when he rejoined the track after his stop.

“We boxed almost at the end of the pitstop window and I felt there was no chance to go to slicks because it dried slowly,” the Austrian said.

“I left the pits, I came back to sector two for the first time and it was basically dry.

“So I thought our race was basically over. Luckily, it started to rain again shortly after.

“So we made the right choice after all, but out of nowhere it dried extremely quickly.”

Davey Euwema is Sportscar365's European Editor. Based in The Netherlands, Euwema covers the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, among other series.

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