“Mister DTM” is back in the cockpit of a current DTM racing car – and I, the How To Cars reporter, sit next to it! “I drove here for the last time in 2008,” grins Bernd Schneider. “First I have to find the limit again.” With five titles, the Mercedes driver is the record champion of the DTM. Back then I watched his victories and titles on TV, now I’m going to tighten my seatbelts again after this announcement.
Schneider and co-driver Garloff are now testing the future of the automobile under extreme conditions. Because slowly feeling your way to the limit, this approach does not seem to exist in the racing world of the five-time DTM champion.
Schneider goes full throttle, the Mercedes engine rumbles, I am pushed into the bucket seat and the butterflies in my stomach dance the tango. At more than 200 km/h (everything is vibrating so much that I can only make out the number vaguely) we jet towards the Grundig hairpin bend. At 120 meters, Schneider drops the anchor. My head bangs forward but is rudely caught by the HANS system. Ouch!
The star pilot hits the ideal line with precision. “There used to be delays with this type of steering,” Schneider explains to me later, “today you hardly notice any difference compared to conventional steering.” On the contrary: “Impacts, bumps or curbs are not transmitted to the steering wheel as extremely as with a steering column .” This should be an advantage, especially in rallying.
Back to the sports car. We race down Zeppelinstrasse. I cheer under the helmet. I’ve also ridden in the old Class One cars. This GT3 two-seater is in no way inferior to the prototypes – at least subjectively. Or is that the man behind the force feedback controls on the twisty street circuit?
“We are the first to convert a steering feel into electronic signals in order to then give this back to the driver as feedback via the steering unit,” reveals Hubert Hügle from Schaeffler Paravan. “This is technically very demanding and an exciting challenge for the engineers. At the end of last year, we used the collected data on the steering test bench and used it to expand our vehicle models. We are now talking about improvements in the details.”
The 100 meter sign appears on the horizon. Braking on the dozen pond bend. Schneider pays no attention to my already battered neck muscles, which are said to pinch days later. Reason: We circle the 2.3-kilometer Norisring twice more, rushing past the historic stone grandstand. Each time Schneider brakes later, accelerates earlier, drives closer to the walls.
“It’s a nice car, isn’t it?” he asks me afterwards. I nod while I still can. Nice and spacey, this drive…