Arjun Maini tackles the corners of Zolder in DTM: Here’s everything about the Zolder circuit
DTM is back this weekend, and Indian driver Arjun Maini is going to be back on the grid to try and score some points. Where’s it being held? The Zolder circuit! Also known as Circuit Terlaemen, resides in the Limburg province of Belgium and while it may not be as famous as Spa, it still has plenty of history with motorsport. After all, with corners named Jochen Rindtbocht and Jacky Ickxbocht it must be special. The Indian driver is yet to score points in the championship but has made significant strides over the first two rounds of DTM. With that said, we turn our focus to the circuit of Zolder which as a matter of fact, has been modified over 10 times in its lifetime. So let us try and understand why this 58 year old track is known as the “Home of DTM”.
The Zolder Origin
The Zolder circuit was originally built in 1961 and was referred to as Circuit Terlaemen (Omloop van Terlaemen). The circuit was originally 2.6km long but as the appetite for motor racing increased amongst the organising committee, the track was recreated to the 4.1km circuit that we are used to today. The layout of the Zolder track was built in 1963 and became Belgium’s first purpose-built circuit. It hosted ten F1 races during the 70s and 80s when the Spa-Francorchamps was undergoing reconstruction. It has also hosted numerous formats of racing like Tour de France, 24 Hours of Zolder, UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships to name a few.
Drama before first F1 race
The first F1 race at the Zolder circuit had seen drama even before the start of the race week. The circuit was renovated and improved for the 1973 Belgium GP but the track was showing signs of degradation and breaking in certain sections. The circuit management decided to resurface the entire track, just a week before the race. But that’s not all. Several F1 drivers were threatening to boycott the race due to concerns over the poor condition of the track and also due to the signs of rupture under the extreme torque of the F1 cars. In the end, all the drivers participated in the race and Sir Jackie Stewart stood victorious.
Losing Gilles Villeneuve
The 1982 Belgium GP brings one of the most tragic incidents when it comes to Zolder. During the qualifying session for the fifth round of the F1 season, Gilles Villeneuve lost his life after crashing into Jochen Mass. Villeneuve was coming out of turn 5 with great speed in the Ferrari 126C with the intent of setting a lap time when he found Jochen Mass travelling through the Butte section with much slower speed. As Jochen saw Villeneuve coming at him, he instinctively moved to the right to let Villeneuve take the racing line. But at the same time Villeneuve also decided to take the right hand side of the track and crashed into the back of Jochen. Villeneuve’s car was sent flying into the air at over 200kmph. Sadly Villeneuve lost his life in the hospital on the same evening.
Dangerous Pit Lane
There was another reason for F1 to hesitate to make Zolder a permanent part of the F1 calendar. The pit mechanics found it very difficult to work at the narrow pit lanes especially when it was overcrowded with the mechanics of other teams. The issue was brought to light when an Osella mechanic was clipped and killed by the Williams of Carlos Reutemann in 1981. Since then, a wider pit lane and new garages were introduced from 1982 with the entire pit section being changed numerous times over the years.
DTM on Zolder
The Zolder circuit is often referred to as the “Home of DTM” and there is a good reason for it. Circuit Zolder was the venue to host the first ever DTM race in 1984. After Formula 1 left Zolder for Spa, DTM became the main international race for the circuit. The winner of the first DTM race in Zolder was Harald Grohs. Since then, the circuit has become a regular venue on the DTM calendar and for many years it was the opening round of the championship.
2021 DTM arrives at Zolder on August 6 with Kelvin Van Der Linde leading the championship table with 69 points and Liam Lawson chasing by four points. The previous races have been quite rocky for him but the Indian has shown signs of improvement. Hopefully, the Zolder circuit will bring some luck in Maini’s and his team Mercedes-AMG Team Getspeed’s favour.