TYRRELL GRAND PRIX PREVIEW LUXEMBOURG HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING Close to the Eifel Mountains in Germany lies arguably the most daunting motor racing circuit of them all. The 14-mile long Nurburgring, which twists, turns and dives through the...
TYRRELL GRAND PRIX PREVIEW LUXEMBOURG
HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING
Close to the Eifel Mountains in Germany lies arguably the most daunting motor racing circuit of them all. The 14-mile long Nurburgring, which twists, turns and dives through the rolling countryside of the region, has in its time been the scene of heroic drives, famous victories and frightening accidents by the score. It is a circuit from another era, painted with broad-brush strokes, conceived at a time when run-off areas, gravel traps and speed-reducing chicanes were not standard items in the track designer's repertoire.
These days, a modern, far safer Nurburgring nestles only a stone's throw from the original circuit. At 2.831 miles/4.556 km, it is a fraction of the length of its predecessor, but it still poses challenges all of its own. Currently, it is the home of the Luxembourg Grand Prix. This year, it also provides the stage for the final European round of the 1998 Formula One World Championship, a race that is now certain to have a critical effect on the outcome of this year's title race.
"It's a new circuit and many people tend not to like it, partly, I suspect, because of the track it sits next to," comments Tyrrell race engineer, David Brown. "Perhaps if it was situated somewhere like Spain, it would be more highly regarded. The problem is, after the high-speed challenges of Spa and Monza, the Nurburgring seems just a little tame by comparison. There are no really fast corners, just one reasonably quick "S" bend.
"It's a fairly high downforce circuit, and the big issue of the weekend undoubtedly will be understeer. Those teams that can 'dial out' the understeer from their chassis effectively will be quick.
"Since it's not a high-speed circuit, the Nurburgring is light on brakes, especially by comparison with Monza. Nor is there likely to be any particular problem with tyre wear. What is required here are all the normal things you need to get a competitive lap time out of a Formula One car; good traction, particularly out of hairpins, good chassis balance and stability under braking, and the best possible compromise between downforce and straight-line speed. Essentially, you just have to work out your own strategy, regardless of what anyone else is doing, and get on with it."
The Italian Grand Prix witnessed Tyrrell's best result so far this season with Toranosuke Takagi finishing a competitive ninth and team mate, Ricardo Rosset, coming home 12th. Both are familiar with the modern Nurburgring, so there is good reason to be optimistic about Tyrrell's prospects for the Luxembourg Grand Prix.
David Brown, however, sounds a warning note. "Weather could play a significant part in the weekend's proceedings, rather as it did at Spa," he says. "At times, it can feel like you're in the middle of a cloud, such is the climate in that part of Germany. In fact, a couple of years ago, the warm-up session at the Nurburgring was actually delayed for 45 minutes because of fog."
There may be a question over the weather at the Nurburgring, but one thing is certain - after Ferrari's one-two finish at Monza last weekend, the German and Italian fans will be turning out in their thousands to cheer on the scarlet machines. The circuit may be bland, but the atmosphere is likely to be electric. The 53-lap Luxembourg Grand Prix will explode into action at 14:00 hrs local time on Sunday, September 27. Last year's race was won by Williams' Jacques Villeneuve with Jean Alesi (Benetton) second and Villeneuve's team mate, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, completing the top-three positions. Formula One lap records for the Nurburgring stand to McLaren's Mika Hakkinen, who grabbed pole position with a time of 1 min 16.602 secs, and Frentzen, who recorded a fastest race lap of 1:18.805. TYRRELL CHASSIS DETAILS - 1998 Luxembourg Grand Prix Ricardo Rosset (No 20) 026/01 Toranosuke Takagi (No 21) 026/05 Spare car 026/02