Back to the roots: round two of the DTM season holds particular historic importance for the popular touring car series. For the first time since 2002, the championship returns to Zolder – the same track which hosted the very first DTM race back in 1984. Joel Eriksson prepares to set foot at the legendary Belgian venue for the first time, despite Zolder effectively being a “home” event for the BMW Swede.
Since arriving on the DTM arena last season, Eriksson has spent a significant proportion of his time in Belgium. More precisely so in the town of Mechelen, an hour’s drive from Zolder. This is where his second family, BMW Team RBM, is being housed under the leadership of eponymous team boss Bart Mampaey (“Racing Bart Mampaey”), and this is where Eriksson always heads to prepare for every DTM race.
“I’m in Belgium quite often and I think it’s great that we’re having a race there this season,” says Joel Eriksson. “We won’t have any sporting advantage – we don’t know the track better than anyone else – but it’s still nice for the team and the families to be so close to home.”
BMW Team RBM: the background
Founded by Mampaey in 1995, BMW Team RBM rose to fame in the 2000s through a highly successful stint in the FIA World Touring Car Championship.
Having taken Britain’s Andy Priaulx to three consecutive WTCC titles, the squad was an obvious partner for BMW when the Bavarian marque re-entered the DTM in 2012, and today runs three of the brand’s works cars (for Eriksson, Sheldon van der Linde and Philipp Eng). The other three (Marco Wittmann, Bruno Spengler and Timo Glock) are being operated by BMW Team RMG.
While BMW Team RBM might be located close to the Zolder track, it will still mark essentially a new consociate for the squad this weekend. The team last raced at the venue back in 2010 but, albeit winning on that occasion in the WTCC, will be playing an empty hand upon their return with the vastly more powerful and faster BMW M4 DTM machines.
New grounds for Joel Eriksson
Joel Eriksson, meanwhile, scored a top ten finish at the Hockenheim opener two weeks ago and enters the Belgian round of the season without any previous experience of Zolder.
“I’ve never been there, but I’ve driven it on the sim and it seems to be a fun track,” Eriksson concludes. “My brother (ADAC GT Masters racer Jimmy) raced there two years ago and he told me it’s a really cool track. We will go there, have a first look and then take it from there.”
Zolder staged the first DTM race in history on March 11, 1984. It was won by Harald Grohs in a BMW 635 CSi.
Eriksson and the rest of the field will take to the track for the first time on Friday for a brace of practice sessions. As always, both of this weekend’s races – as well as practice and qualifying – are streamed online at www.dtm.com.
DTM | Round 2/9
Friday 17 May
Free Practice 1: 14.15-15.00
Free Practice 2: 17.10-17.40
Saturday 18 May
Qualifying 1: 10.35-10.55
Race 1: 13.30-14.30
Sunday 19 May
Qualifying 2: 10.25-10.45
Race 2: 13.30-14.30
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (top five)
DTM | After 2/18 races
1: Marco Wittmann (GER), BMW, 34 p.
2: Robin Frijns (NED), Audi, 31 p.
3: René Rast (GER), Audi, 25 p.
4: Nico Müller (SUI), Audi, 22 p.
5: Mike Rockenfeller (GER), Audi, 20 p.
14: Joel Eriksson (SWE), BMW, 1 p.