One man, two jobs

One race car is not enough, or at least not for Robin Frijns. The Audi factory driver from the Netherlands is taking part in two international racing series this season: the DTM and Formula E. What are the differences between driving the Audi RS 5 DTM and the Audi e-tron FE05? What makes the work with Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline and Audi customer team Envision Virgin Racing so enjoyable? Robin Frijns shares more here.

06/12/2019 Reading Time: 6 min

Robin Frijns

MY TWO CARS

Audi RS 5 DTM on the racetrack

AUDI RS 5 DTM

Robin Frijns: “The Audi RS 5 DTM is a thoroughbred Class 1 race car with a carbon fibre monocoque, turbocharged two-litre four-cylinder engine (over 450 kW/610 hp), rear-wheel drive and a semi-automatic six-speed sequential gearbox. With that, a top speed of about 300 km/h is possible.”

Audi e-tron FE05 on the racetrack

AUDI e-tron FE05

Robin Frijns: “The Audi e-tron FE05 is an open FIA Formula E race car with a carbon fibre/aluminium monocoque, electric motor-generator unit (maximum of 250 kW/ 340 hp), rear-wheel drive and a single-speed transmission. The top speed is about 240 km/h.”

MY TWO COCKPITS

Robin Frijns: “In the DTM car, you’re sitting quite far back and on the left-hand side whereas, you’re sitting in the middle of the car in Formula E. In the DTM car, which is a touring car, there are a lot of systems within reach around you inside the car.

Robin Frijns in the Audi e-tron FE05

In comparison, the Formula E cockpit is very small and tight. Most of the buttons, levers and indicators are located on the steering wheel. Getting into this car is a little bit more difficult. Firstly, I have to jump over the Halo, an added safety feature above the cockpit since 2019 onwards, and then into the cockpit. By the way: I always get into my open Audi e-tron FE05 from the left-hand side and get out of it on the right-hand side.

 

Apparently, I can’t stick to this habit in the Audi RS 5 DTM. I have to enter this closed touring car like a road car from the left-hand side, but without the door having been attached yet. The door only gets attached shortly before I am about to drive out of my garage.”

Audi RS 5 DTM on the racetrack

MY TWO WAYS OF DRIVING

Robin Frijns: “Driving through corners is quite different: In the Formula E car, you can’t press the brakes hard because no significant downforce is being produced by the bodywork like on the DTM car. Heading into the corners, I can turn in sharper with the Formula E car. The car’s change of direction whilst turning in is also sharper, because it’s more than 100 kilogrammes lighter than the DTM car.

Audi e-tron FE05 on the racetrack

As a driver in the DTM you need to get the maximum downforce out of the car. And you have to get the set-up right, because this is very, very important. You have to work on every small detail of your car in the DTM, in order to find the best possible solution for your driving style.

 

In Formula E you have to drive in a way so that the complex systems of this fully electric racing car and all of its software can work for you and help you in the best possible way. This is very complicated and even more so to explain. Anyway, every race car has its own secrets and each race driver has to figure them out.”

Robin Frijns in the Audi e-tron FE05

MY TWO KINDS OF RACING

Robin Frijns: “The start of a Formula E race is fairly easy, because you cannot really stall the engine, given that it’s all electronic with the electric motor and the single-speed transmission. In the DTM, it’s now very difficult to pull away from the start. Until the end of last season, we had a handbrake to pre-load the car for the start. Now we don’t have this anymore and some drivers do have slow getaways, because of the increased difficulty. You have to get it just right.

Robin Frijns in the Audi RS 5 DTM

Another tricky point regarding the start in a DTM car is the turbocharged engine, which is being used from this year onwards. If your revs are too low, the engine’s boost pressure will not be high enough. And if they are too high, you will have a lot of wheel spin on the rear axle. It’s crucial and completely different. It Is definitely much more difficult to have a good start in the DTM.

 

The racing itself is also very different in the DTM and Formula E. In the DTM, the tyres are a big factor nowadays. Until the end of last year, we had more aerodynamic downforce being produced by the car, no turbocharged engines and about 100 horsepower less. So now we slide more and we have to put the increased horsepower onto the ground through the exact same design of tyres that we used last season. So, the tyres are more stressed and we have much higher tyre degradation during the races this year. Taking care of your tyres is definitely a big key to success in the new era of the DTM.

Audi e-tron FE05 on the racetrack

In Formula E, tyre degradation is not really a big issue. The biggest thing there is energy management. That means getting the maximum out of your electric power unit at any specific time during the race.

 

The battling with competitors on track is also very different. This is easier in the DTM. There you can fight side by side with the driver of another car for several corners, sometimes even for half a lap. I really enjoy that. Most of the time in Formula E, you are preparing your attack to overtake for just one specific corner.

 

Changing from my Audi RS 5 DTM to my Audi e-tron FE05 and vice versa is not a big thing for me. I get used to each of these cars quite quickly as soon as I get behind the wheel. Needing to switch between two types of cars I had already learned to do when I was racing in the DTM for Audi and also LMP2 during the same season.”

Audi RS 5 DTM on the racetrack

MY TWO RACING WORLDS

Robin Frijns: “The most important difference in the formats of the DTM and Formula E: In Formula E we are mostly racing on non-permanent street circuits. In the DTM, we use permanent race tracks, with the Norisring being the only exception. The permanent venues provide much smoother and wider circuits, when compared to the Formula E venues, where everything is narrower and tighter.

Robin Frijns with his mechanics

Another important difference between the two series: In Formula E, we have the free practice sessions, qualifying and the race all taking place during just one day. The whole programme is packed into less than twelve hours. So, it’s quite hectic and stressful.

 

In the DTM, we have a bit more time to sit down with the engineers, to discuss our progress and to make improvements on the car. We have one day with two free practice sessions and then two race days, each with one qualifying session before the race on each of the respective days.

 

The atmosphere of the series is also very different: Formula E is only in its fifth season, but it’s still growing a lot. And many of the fans who are coming to watch it are absolutely new to motorsport. On the other hand, the DTM has already existed for more than three decades and most of the people follow it because of their pure passion for cars and motorsport. Many of the DTM fans make a direct comparison between these impressive touring cars and normal road cars. A Formula E car is difficult to compare to a road car at the moment, but the technology we are now using in Formula E will be transferred to the road cars of the future!”

Robin Frijns on the podium

MY ONLY CONCLUSION

Robin Frijns: “Racing and competing in several different motorsport categories has made me a more complete driver in recent years. I grew up with single-seater race cars and also stepped up to being a Formula One test driver. Then I switched to much heavier and completely differently balanced GT cars and now I race in the DTM and in Formula E. Well, I honestly love to drive both of these cars very, very much!”

ROBIN
FRIJNS

Robin Frijns on the podium
Robin Frijns in the Audi RS 5 DTM
Audi RS 5 DTM pit stop

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