Steering development on the race track - Good start into the second half of the DTM
Mercedes-AMG Team Mücke Motorsport with Maximilian Buhk has made an ambitious start to the second half of the season. On the legendary 3,629-metre Grand Prix circuit at the Nürburgring with its 11 corners, the 29-year-old Hanseatic driver narrowly missed out on the long-awaited points classification on Saturday with 11th place in his steer-by-wire Mercedes-AMG GT3 #18 - which is equipped with the Space Drive electronic steering system from Schaeffler Paravan. On Sunday, he crossed the finish line in 14th place after an extremely close qualifying session.
For a long time on Saturday, it was not clear whether the race could start at all. A thick layer of fog lay over the Eifel circuit and ensured that the engines on the Eifel circuit were silent in the afternoon. Around 4:30 p.m., it cleared up and at 5:15 p.m., the race control gave the green light for the start of the first DTM race in the second half of the season, for which the spectators had to wait for hours. After the morning qualifying session had already been cancelled due to fog, the championship standings decided the starting order. For Maximilian Buhk, this meant starting position 23 in the field of 28 cars.
What followed after the opening lap was an impressive race to catch up. After only the fourth lap, the Space Drive driver was able to move up to 17th position in his Mercedes-AMG GT3 #18 and worked his way forward lap after lap with a strong pace. The team then decided to make a late pit stop at the end of lap 26. The plan worked. In the end, Buhk was in eleventh place, just four tenths away from scoring his first points of the season.
"The car was great, the Space Drive steering worked great and I managed some good manoeuvres: I noticed immediately after the start that the balance was right and that I could put pressure on," said Space Drive development driver Maximilian Buhk after the first race. "The strategy with the late stop also worked well. I could have done even better, but unfortunately I got caught up in a group of cars immediately after the stop. And when you then have cold tyres, it gets tricky."
We had very good pace all weekend and see that the performance is there, even with the current development status of the Space Drive steering.
On Sunday, the Eifel showed its sunny weather side, so that the 28 drivers could again fight for the best starting positions. Despite a strong qualifying session, the 1:26:230 - with a 0.286-second difference to pole - was only enough for 18th place on the grid in a historically tight starting field. In the race, Maximilian Buhk was stuck in midfield. After an early safety car phase and the resulting early pit stop on lap seven, he was unable to make up further places due to traffic in the so-called fast line, despite an optimum tire change. On the restart he lost further positions in turn 2, got stuck and was unable to bring his good pace onto the track. So after 39 laps he was only 14th.
"I am satisfied, even if I would have liked a slightly better race result" says Peter Mücke, Team Principal of Mercedes-AMG Team Mücke Motorsport after the race weekend. "Due to the safety car phase, it was difficult. We were at the end of the pit lane and didn't get out. That cost us a few places. But we had very good pace all weekend and see that the performance is there, even with the current development status of the Space Drive steering."
Impressions from the race track
At the next race, the Space Drive bolide with start number 18 will compete for the first time on the traditional Belgian circuit of Spa-Francorchamps. This will be the first race for a Space Drive development vehicle from Schaeffler Paravan Technologie GmbH & Co.KG that does not require any mechanical connection at all between the steering unit and the steering gear, and it is a very special circuit: With a difference in altitude of around 100 meters over the course of the track and the numerous bends where high centrifugal forces occur, the approximately seven-kilometer-long circuit is rightly also called the "Ardennes roller coaster". The Space Drive engineers and Mercedes-AMG Team Mücke Motorsport are hoping that the “Eau Rouge” bend in particular, which is negotiated at almost full speed and where extreme forces act on the vehicle, will provide important insights for the further development of the system.
"We've never driven Eau Rouge before. It's something very special and certainly a challenge for the driver, the car and, of course, the Space Drive steering system. We used the time over the summer to realize further development steps," says Axel Randolph, Head of Race at Schaeffler Paravan Technologie GmbH & Co. KG. "The corner is driven almost at full speed. Due to the dip and the associated compression, there are very high forces on the steering. This will be very challenging. We expect to gain very useful insights for further development, especially in terms of safety and load capacity." Peter Mücke is also looking forward to the challenge: "Spa is one of the most beautiful race tracks, with the highest stresses for the car and the steering. Everything has to fit in the Eau Rouge. It will be very interesting and we will learn a lot."
In just under two weeks, on September 10 and 11, rounds eleven and twelve of the 2022 DTM will take place at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Then it's on to Spielberg, Austria, at the Red Bull Ring on September 24 and 26, and the season finale at Hockenheim on October 8 and 9.