The Hockenheimring. A driver’s perspective

News | May 12, 2022

This weekend, the Hockenheimring in Baden-Württemberg hosts the 24H SERIES for the third time in as many years. Not only is it one of the oldest circuits on CREVENTIC’s 2022 calendar, it’s also, surprisingly, one of the most technically complex. We ask five of our regular competitors to give us their thoughts on the Hockenheimring. 

Firstly, could you tell us a little about your racing experiences at the Hockenheimring: your first race there, your favourite memories, etc…

Elia Erhart (Phoenix Racing): “It was 2006, the first time at the Hockenheimring, and that was my first experience in a race car too. I think it was a Toyota Yaris. But probably my best memory at Hockenheim was 2011 when I won the SEAT Leon Supercopa Germany. We were a support series for the DTM that weekend, so that was pretty memorable!” 


Johannes Dr. Kirchhoff (Car Collection Motorsport): “My first race there was a long time ago… I actually don’t recall it! But [the Hockenheimring] is a wonderful track. It’s a very fast track, it’s a very tricky track, and overall I like it very much.”


Pierre Kaffer (Phoenix Racing): “My first race at Hockenheim was a long time ago. It was 1994 with Formula Ford and since then, on the old track of the new track*, I think I’ve raced there in almost everything I’ve driven in my career. Porsche Carrera Cup. The DTM. ADAC GT Masters. For sure I was there with CREVENTIC last year, and it was nice to race there with the Audi. In fact, the only category I don’t think I raced there was LMP1. 


“My favourite [race] I have to say was in 2003. I was on pole for my first race in the Porsche Carrera Cup, and I won. That was a nice memory. Another one is last year’s race with CREVENTIC, because it’s always nice to be [at the Hockenheimring] for a long distance race.”


*Work on redesigning the Hockenheimring in a bid to boost areas for spectators began in February 2002. The shortened 4.574km layout, down from 6.825km, was inaugurated that summer. 


Marcus Menden (Wolf-Power Racing): “I don’t really have that many experiences at Hockenheim, because my family started racing at the Nordschleife, and we also started with the TCRs three years ago. My son has quite a bit of experience at the Hockenheimring though: he races there with the SEAT Cupra Cup and he’s quite [enthusiastic].”


Robert Renauer (Herberth Motorsport): “Oh I’ve driven many times at Hockenheim! I started, maybe, when I was 18 in the Porsche Carrera Cup, and now I’m 37. So for sure I’ve had more than 20 races there! And there’ve been a lot of good races there too. I started twice from pole position in the Carrera Cup and [Herberth Motorsport] has won races in the ADAC GT Masters at Hockenheim. So it’s a good race track for us, and it’s been a really good racetrack for the Porsche!”

The Hockenheimring has a history dating back to 1931 and has hosted the German Grand Prix more times than any other circuit. Do you still get a sense of that history when you race there?

JK: “Oh yes! Of course you can’t compare it with the Nürburgring, because that is a 20km, one-lap track, it’s very narrow, and when you are over the limit, you will for sure destroy the car. This is not the case with the Hockenheimring. The Hockenheimring is a much wider circuit, so it feels a lot more secure and you can really push yourself, but it’s still a difficult track to get right. 


PK: “It’s a shame we don’t have the Formula 1 Grand Prix there anymore, because I think it was a great time when Michael [Schumacher], Nick [Heidfeld], Heinz-Harald [Frentzen], and Ralf [Schumacher] was racing there together. It’s always nice to be back there, but the ‘real history’ is what people associate with the long straights through the forest. So for me, when I think about Hockenheim, it’s more about the new generation of racing cars and the modern ‘era.’ Almost like we’re creating a new history at the Hockenheimring.” 


MM: “The new track doesn’t have as much history as the older track – the older track was absolutely famous – but the new track has had a lot of great F1 moments there. Obviously we hope F1 will come back to Hockenheim soon.”


EE: “For sure you do. For years I slept in my motorhome, close to the track, and you can see the old track. There are some parts of the old track, if you go a little outside into the woods, you can see the old straights. You can’t drive there anymore, but the chicanes are still there, so you can go in and have a look. I think this is very historic. Also, if you drive and come into the Motodrom, now with the Porsche on the right-hand side, there’s a special atmosphere there.”

One of the most recognisable parts of the track is the long, left-handed ‘Parabolika’ corner that leads into the tight Hairpin. What is the sensation of speed like through there, and would you say the hairpin offers the best overtaking opportunities?

PK: “In Hockenheim, there are a couple of opportunities to overtake, but for sure one of the best is the hairpin. We have seen a lot of crashes there but there’s also been a lot of great overtaking manoeuvres. And the Parabolika is very special in the wet, I can tell you: there can be two or three little rivers running through there, and you need to know exactly where the water. It can get quite exciting!”


MM: “Definitely the hairpin is a good opportunity, but the track has a few more corners that are fun and [provide] opportunities to overtake others. Especially when you’re coming into the arena and you reach the Sachs Kurve. It’s a lot of fun going for an overtake through there.”  


RR: “For sure that’s a good opportunity for overtaking. But also out of the hairpin too: if one car defends its position on the way in, you have a chance to overtake on the exit because you’re both on different lines. Actually… Hockenheim has a lot of good [overtaking] opportunities because there’s a mix of high speed and really slow turns. So it’s an interesting track [in that regard].” 


EE: Yeah, for sure, [the Hairpin] is one of the best overtaking spots. The Parabolika is easy flat, but not if it’s full wet. If there’s a lot of water, you can get into trouble there quickly. But yeah, that’s a good place to try an overtake.”


JK: “Well of course, the Parabolika is not a very difficult corner because it’s long and I think every car can do it at full throttle. At this place, you can overtake like hell, because when you get the [slipstream] from the car in front of you, you can really pick-up speed. The problem comes when you get to the sharp right corner because you need to find the right braking point. 


“But there are several other areas where you can overtake at Hockenheim. At the end of the start/finish straight, and before the entrance to the Motodrom, there are a lot of nice spots there. So it’s a good course for the drivers, and I think a very good course for spectators.”

The ‘stadium section’ of the circuit, which includes Sachs and the Sudkurve leading onto the Start-Finish straight, has been a prominent part of the Hockenheimring since 1966. It’s also one of the few parts of the track that still has gravel traps! Is this the most difficult section to get right for a fast / clean lap?

MM: “Definitely, yes! I think it’s much more difficult with a front-wheel drive car because you can easily destroy your tyres through there. You have to be very sensitive: If you push too hard, you get understeer, you destroy your tyres, and you destroy your lap.”


RR: “For sure, yeah. You can lose a lot of time in the Motodrom and through the last sector. It looks easy, but in the end, with all the gravel beds, it’s the most technical and complex part of the circuit.”


EE: “Oh, especially the Sachs corner. It has some slight banking, and this means there’s a lot of lines through there, which can affect your speed. For a good laptime, the last two corners are very important, but also the first corner on way into the Motodrom is very important too. It’s very fast because, with the GT3 cars especially, we have a lot of downforce you can use there. It’s a fast corner [requiring] a lot of technical focus, and some hard braking shortly afterwards. So Hockenheim is not as easy to drive as it looks.”


JK: “If you miss these three or four corners, and if you don’t have the right lines in and out, that’s for sure the decisive thing. The exit of the start-finish line and the Parabolika areas are not so difficult, but this corner combination certainly is the key for a good lap time.”


PK: “I have to say, to get into the Motodrom, it’s a very nice corner. And yes, you’re right, you have to be mindful of the gravel beds. But it’s always a nice feeling when you enter [the stadium]. I remember my DTM win: it was full of people, and fans of every manufacturer, so it felt like every brand was being celebrated. It was nice to be there in an Audi. Even today, I still have memories from that time, and I always enjoy entering the Motodrom and Sachs corners. It’s a unique sector.”

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