Tires in the DTM – A science in itself

Fabien Chenin measures a tire
Fabien Chenin measures a tire

The Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM Team is one big, happy family but has other members apart from the racing drivers. We would like to introduce you to the people behind the scenes. In the spotlight today: Fabien Chenin, Tire Engineer.

  • Fabien works closely with the race and performance engineers
  • Together, they try to set up the car to perfectly suit the driver’s needs
  • Fabien Chenin: “The tire is one of the most complex parts of the car, so you have to take time to understand it"

Many hard-working hands and bright people are needed to be successful in the DTM. Fabien Chenin (27) is one of them. The tire engineer is the link between Racehub and VDG – the race and performance engineers at the track and the members of the team who analyze the science behind the tires. Things can quickly get very hectic as they go about their work, but Fabien gets all the rest and relaxation he needs in the French Alps where he likes to go skiing and spend time in the mountains. Before joining the DTM, he had already gained plenty of motor racing experience in Formula E, in the 24-Hours of Le Mans and with GT3 and LMP2 racing cars.

What exactly is the role of a tire engineer in the DTM?

Fabien Chenin: Our job is to get all the tire settings ready in the run-up to the race weekend, for example, the camber and tire pressure. We also have to adjust the car’s setup, so that the tires will last longer in the race, which is why I work closely with the race and performance engineers and with colleagues at the factory, whose job it is to look at tires from a more scientific angle.

What traits of character are particularly important in your job?

Fabien Chenin: When you talk to people about tires, they often have no idea what we do, but our work has an enormous influence on things overall, on the big picture. The tire is one of the most complex parts of the car, so you have to make time to understand it by taking things one step at a time. Something that works well at 15 degrees in Hockenheim may not function properly at all at 25 degrees in Zandvoort. You have to understand the details and find the right approach.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Fabien Chenin: The field in the DTM is so tightly bunched that finding just one small thing that works well can immediately make a difference. The drivers are of such high quality that it’s reflected in their results when I do my work well. The most fun is in understanding the details and making the car go faster. You always have to try to be smarter than the rest. I also like working in a team. We can make a huge difference when everyone pulls together, and that’s the great thing about motorsport.

New tires are being introduced this season. Are you looking forward to the fresh challenge they will pose?

Fabien Chenin: Yes, indeed, because tires will play a much bigger role this year where performance is concerned. You have to get the setup right, but drivers too will have a big influence on tire management. The nature of the races will change a lot due to the new tires, perhaps not on a street circuit like the Norisring, but on tracks like Zandvoort or Hockenheim. Then we’ll see who can best deal with tires!

How important will pre-season testing be in that respect?

Fabien Chenin: These tests are the most important and interesting part for me. Unlike at a race weekend, we can take our time to measure everything and log all the details. We have to make sure that we’ve worked through every aspect to do with the tires in order to be prepared for the season.

What exactly does your work entail at a race weekend?

Fabien Chenin: We first decide which car we’re going to use for testing during practice. After that, we evaluate the results and apply them to the other cars. The race engineers will then come to me and tell me what problems their drivers are having. They want to know what they can do with the tires to help their drivers. I normally don’t get to speak directly with the drivers but with their engineers, who give me some idea of the drivers’ impressions. I then try to give them advice, which they in turn pass on to the drivers. It’s real teamwork. We work together to advise the driver.

Has there ever been a situation that particularly sticks in your memory?

Fabien Chenin: The first race weekend in Hockenheim last season. We’d worked hard the whole winter, but it was only then that we were able to see whether we’d done our job properly or not. We got a great result. On Sunday, Paul took pole position, proving that we’ d done a good job.

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