Dirk Werner (DE) caused quite a stir at the DTM season-opener in Hockenheim (DE), qualifying third at the wheel of the E-POSTBRIEF BMW M3 DTM. The BMW Team Schnitzer driver may have been blighted by bad luck in the race, but Werner's verdict on his DTM debut was more than positive, as he reveals in this interview.
Dirk, coming into the season-opener, did you honestly believe that you would qualify in the top three?
Dirk Werner: "No, definitely not. I started the season hoping to get on a par with my experienced team-mate Bruno Spengler as soon as possible. As the newcomer, I was aware that I had a lot of ground to make up. For that reason it was initially very important for me to gradually adapt to the BMW M3 DTM during pre-season testing - which I managed to do better and better. Having said that, I never expected to qualify third as the best-placed BMW driver. That was an overwhelming experience for me. Now it is important to back up this good start week after week."
The DTM is new territory for you. What are your impressions of the series?
Werner: "For me, the DTM is the best touring car series in the world. The standard of the drivers and teams is unbelievably high. To have any chance of winning, you have to push yourself to the very limit. The DTM also puts on a fantastic show. The race in Hockenheim was an awesome spectacle and a real thrill - for drivers and fans alike. For that reason, it is a great honour for me to line up for BMW in the DTM."
What impressed you most about your first DTM weekend?
Werner: "That is easy: the fans. They waited patiently in their droves, just to get an autograph from me. 71,000 spectators attended the race. The paddock and grandstands were packed. The draw of the DTM is simply excellent. The unbelievable reception from the BMW fans gave me even more motivation for the race."
BMW's good start aside, in which areas do you personally feel you have room for improvement?
Werner: "As a DTM rookie, I have the disadvantage that I am still yet to complete a single lap at many tracks, either at tests or in a race situation. As a result, I am lacking a bit of experience at many circuits. That can, and will, change. Furthermore, Hockenheim was my very first DTM race. It is understandable that I need to improve in some areas, such as the start or pit stops. There is still room for improvement there. However, I am working hard with my team to continue to improve."
For me, the DTM is the best touring car series in the world
What are your goals for the race at the Lausitzring?
Werner: "Nobody should expect miracles from me, just because we had a really good opening weekend. I will do my very best and we'll see what happens. The track at the Lausitzring definitely presents the BMW M3 DTM with very specific challenges. The surface is quite smooth. We have to brake hard and need good traction. Whatever happens, fans can look forward to an exciting race."
You are one of the few drivers with a degree. Did you learn as quickly as you drive?
Werner: "I studied Mechanical Engineering at a university of applied science. I really enjoyed it, and it was important for me to have something solid to fall back on. It has also given me a better understanding of the technical side of motor racing. I try to incorporate this knowledge when working with the engineers. My studies have certainly done me no harm."